I was sitting in the corner of a coffee shop, completely unaware of anyone around me, my nose deep in my book. I couldn’t seem to read the story fast enough, yet I continued making conscious efforts to slow down in order to soak up every word on the page. Tears were bouncing off my cheeks as I internally cheered emphatic yeses in agreement with each sentence.
I was in awe of the book’s author. She was bold, stunningly honest, and so very brave in the telling of her story. The more I read about her struggles with body image and low self-esteem, the less alone I felt in my similar struggles. It’s as if she had taken the words right out of my mouth—words I had never spoken from a story I’d never been courageous enough to tell.
Something shifted for me during that afternoon I spent holed up in the corner of a coffee shop with a book and a latte. As I read this woman’s story, I grew less isolated in my own. My shame weakened and hope grew as the writer shared of struggles I could identify with and of subsequent triumphs I had not yet known.
Once I finished the book, I immediately went to the author’s website and wrote her a message: Thank you for sharing your story—it deeply resonated with me and helped me to feel less alone in my struggles. Can we be best friends?
This is actually a true story; I emailed a best-selling author and asked her if she would be my best friend. That is how connected to her I felt as I read her story. (She did write me back, several weeks later. Her message was so very kind, yet clearly avoided my friendship request.) Her book not only helped me to feel understood, and put me on a path towards healing, but it encouraged me to tell my own stories with the intention of connecting with others.
Today, I am a writer because I believe two of the most powerful words we can say or hear are, “Me, too.” We cannot connect with others in our shared experiences—the painful, the joyful, and all that is between—unless we tell our story.
This is no simple recollection of our day as we gather around the dinner table. Encouraging others to share their story is to encourage serious—and, often, scary—courage and vulnerability. It is big and brave to break down the emotional walls we put up, own our faults and fears, and tell our stories of grief, addiction, temptation, or trepidation. It is so much easier to only ever talk about the weather, but the weakening of my fear, expansion of my hope, and transformative experience of community certainly did not take place by reading the 5-day forecast in the coffee shop’s corner. Your story carries weight; it is meaningful—but it cannot influence others if it is kept to yourself.
Consider the innumerable lives that have been transformed and saved because imperfect people told their stories of fear, hardship and, ultimately, of God’s love and saving grace. The Bible serves as a prime example of the transformative power of telling our stories. Not only are we taught and encouraged in the Bible’s stories, but God is glorified. If the word “evangelism” is intimidating to you, start by sharing a story of redemption from your life. Telling others of how God has showed up and saved us is a potent and honoring form of worship. It is, in essence, evangelism.
While it is important to use wisdom in discerning the appropriate audience and moment to share our story with others, the question is one of, “When should I?” rather than, “Should I?” The doubt, fear, anger, grief, hope, and endurance that your story holds are worth sharing. It is not always easy to recall and recount some of our experiences, but for the sake of connecting with others, teaching, offering hope or healing, and allowing our hardships to be used in a way that teaches and encourages others—this can make our recollections worthwhile.
I am forever grateful for those who have come before me, committing themselves to vulnerability and honesty as they invite others in to hear their story. Because of them, I’ve cried in coffee shop corners, connected with writers, found hope, and experienced healing. We are better together, and we can begin by gathering in the “Me, too” moments of our shared stories.
Some tips for sharing your story:
--Before sharing with others, write it out for yourself. Where do you see your growth? What about grace? How does God show up in your story?
--How does it feel to think and write about your story? If you are finding yourself triggered by the tender and painful parts of your experiences, it may not be time to share it with others just yet. Consider talking with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist to continue the healing process.
--It is wise to practice discernment and prayer before sharing your story. Who needs to hear it? What parts do they need to hear? Are you ready to share? Are they ready to hear? Allow some of these questions to marinate before launching into the telling of your story.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com
I am Mallory—a wife, a writer, and a dog mom to Roger. I love dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. These days, I hang out at malloryredmond.com, where I tell my stories with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.