The sky outside my office window was a dreary smattering of gray. I sat huddled at my desk, back hunched, staring at my computer screen for yet another afternoon zoom call. It was one of those brainstorming sessions, a work-meet for fellow activists and educators, to determine what big project to pursue next. I should have been excited. These are the kinds of conversations I live for and yet . . . I felt as dreary as the sky outside.
Plus, the tone of the meeting was feeling increasingly hostile. Certain individuals had started to dominate the conversation, and it was clear from people’s facial expressions and body language that not everyone was feeling heard. The meeting was almost over before I finally mustered up the courage to speak. I said something along the lines of, “In my experience, I’ve found that . . . ” But I didn’t even get a chance to finish. Someone interrupted me and said, “We don’t really need your perspective. I think we’re good here.”
I want to give this person the benefit of the doubt. I think they were trying to say that they’d already made a decision, and they wanted to wrap up the meeting. Their comment was mostly like a timing issue and not a cultural issue. Nevertheless, those words didn’t feel great. In that moment, I felt like my voice and my story were not worthy of talking space. Admittedly, after that meeting, I didn’t have much interest in continuing with the work of the group.
Throughout my life, I’ve found that most people have been told in one way or another at some point that their voice and story were insignificant. Whether from a family member, a boss, a neighbor, a friend, fill in the blank, most of us have had experiences where we felt unheard and like our voice was unwanted.
But what I’ve learned from God’s Word is that my story is worth telling, and so is yours.
We are storied creatures. We were made to tell the tales of God’s wondrous work in our life. Our stories are a testimony to who God is and how He’s working in the world.
I think about the psalmist who declares in Psalm 22:22, “I will praise you to all my brothers; I will stand up before the congregation and testify of the wonderful things you have done.” And, again, in Psalm 66:16, “Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.”
No matter what conversation I’m having, I’ve learned the power of leading with my story. Whether I’m talking about a race-related topic, marriage, parenting, womanhood, you name it, I’ve learned to lead with my personal experiences.
Information is a very poor pathway to forming deep relational connections. Expressing an opinion is ineffective in ascribing nuance or subjectivity to a situation. But a story? Oh, how a story invigorates a conversation with connection and meaning!
Expressing your story is one of the most powerful conversation skills in your toolkit.
Think of your story as the key that opens the door to meaningful relationships and meaningful change. We need to eventually get to the table inside the metaphorical house and collaboratively communicate our ideas in a give-and-take exchange, but we won’t get inside unless we’ve shared our stories first. Stories are the key. Stories are the door openers.
When you know your story, and when and how to express it, you will dramatically change how you interact with others. You will set the tone for a much more respectful, honoring dialogue. You’ll show that the topic at hand isn’t just some fun intellectual exploration, but rather an issue that has true, personal resonance. You’ll also make it harder for the other person to disagree with you – because instead of sharing an opinion, you’ve shard a life experience; an experience that bears witness to God’s work in the world.
Receive this encouragement today: Your story matters. Your story matters to God. It’s needed by others.
Each of us has a unique story to share; a story that no one else can tell but ourselves about the goodness and beauty and restorative work of God. No matter what your context is, where you work, who your “people” are, show up with confidence and joy to share your story and to encourage others to share their stories as well.
God has entrusted you with a specific story, and sharing your story is essential to working toward healing, restoration, and unity within your context.