Monday, April 26, 2010

Tell Your Story

Jewel loves to tell stories. She dreams of writing a book someday. Her teacher, who is nearing retirement age, says she is the most imaginative writer she's ever had in class. She is also prolific. Her journal entries span page after page, while other students ask that age-old question: How much do we have to write?

As a preschooler, Jewel learned that she could compete with her loud brothers for talk-time at the dinner table if her story captivated their attention. What would begin as a mundane tale of playgroup antics would spin into epic proportions. The more her brothers wiggled and tried to edge into the conversation, the bigger the story would spin.

Justice, ever the stickler for truth and the American way, would begin to yell, "You're lying! That didn't happen! She's lying!" Not wanting to squelch her budding dramatic strain, but in an effort to keep her word as truth, I began asking a few questions that let her tell her story and save face at the same time. "Did that really happen or is that something you would like to happen?"  Or, in the case of a comedy, "Did that really happen or would that be something funny if it happened?" Usually she would admit that the story was more fantasy than reality.

Tomorrow, April 27, is Tell a Story Day. Everyone has a story. Did you know that? You are a unique creation with God-given gifts and talents. You've been presented with your own personality upon birth. Throughout your life you've developed your own passions and values. And you possess specific experiences that are unique to you--the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of that adds up to the Story of You. You've heard the saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? I think there's good truth in that. But I don't think it stops there. The hardest lessons to learn are those learned through struggle and trial. But the easiest lessons to learn are from watching someone else's struggle or trial. When we share our story with others, we can save them the pain and heartache of making the mistakes we made, experiencing the sharp learning curve of poor choices, and reaping the consequences of our sin. They get to learn the lesson but are free from the baggage that accompanied it.

In honor of Tell a Story Day, I encourage you to share a good book with the people in your life. But I'd also prompt you to share a story--YOUR story--with people around you. Your kids need to know the lessons you've learned in life. Your friends need to hear that you aren't perfect, but that you are working on it. Your spouse needs to know that little kid you once were and how it affects the big person you are today.

I know people who are afraid of sharing their failings with their kids. They think their kids will think less of them. They think it gives their kids permission to go out and do the very same things. Here me loud and clear: Those are lies from Satan. When we share our trials with others, it brings freedom. The power in a secret disappears when it is no longer a secret.

I've worked with youth long enough to have heard a couple hundreds times, "My parents just don't get it." When you share your story with your kids, they realize you do get it. Let them learn from your experiences and escape the consequences. You can't control if they choose to go ahead and make the mistake for themselves, but wouldn't you rather them make their decisions with as much information as possible? But I think rather than think that they have permission, your kids are going to respect you more for being real with them and for caring enough to humble yourself. Or they see that you struggled with some of the same things, but you overcame.

Don't fool yourself into thinking your kids will never know--these things have a way of coming out eventually. Let them hear the story from your mouth. Let them hear of your successes and your failures. Let them hear your story. After all, you are the only one qualified to tell it. But these stories don't have to be saved for only our children. There are lots of people who will benefit from hearing your story.

Here are a couple of hints in sharing your story:

1. Make it interesting. Capture their attention and they'll stick around longer.
2. Let them know upfront whether the story is a time when you failed or when you prospered. You need to share a mix of both.
3. Tell your story.
4. Point out the consequences of your bad decisions, actions, or attitudes in the stories of failure. Point out the decisions, actions, or attitudes that lead to a good outcome.
5. If you are sharing the story with your child, plainly express your expectations for them. Don't leave them guessing at the lesson.

You have a story to tell and a great big world waiting. You better get started.

1 comment:

  1. Feel free to edit my blog today--I'm posting on the run.