“Your story is your life.” – Jim Loehr
I was reading “The Power of Story” by Jim Loehr for required Fellows reading. As the title suggests, this book examines the way we tell stories, mainly about how we tell our own personal stories – the story about ourselves – to ourselves. In the 2nd half of the book, he goes on to write about how we can change these stories to transform our personal lives and careers (mainly business).
Storytelling is an astonishingly powerful tool that humans have. We can edify and encourage one another through our stories, or we can completely shatter someone’s life through our stories. Stories can persuade someone to act now, or turn them away and agitate them. It doesn’t matter what the story is about. It could be about what we are capable of, something that has happened in our lives, our families, relationships, work or health. The topic doesn’t matter. It is all in how you tell the story.
Dave Batstone is incredible at telling the stories of the survivors we work with, and the abolitionists on the ground, at our international projects. After hearing Dave tell any of these people’s stories, or his story of how he got connected with them, you are always left inspired; always left motivated to do something. He knows how to pluck at people’s heartstrings to invoke change. This is a vital skill in the abolitionist movement.
Loehr does a great job explaining how vital stories are to our lives. They make sense of chaos. They help us figure out our personal goals, dreams, and skills. They help us process what has happened. In short, stories shape our entire reality. Please understand, all of this does not equate to fabricating your own story. That’s not beneficial.
You can think of it as turning in a term paper, thesis, or dissertation. You don’t turn in your first draft as your final copy. It needs edits. It needs perfecting. It needs a lot of thought, and energy poured into it so you can best communicate what it is you are trying to say through your paper, and by God, you better not use passive voice while doing it! Currently at NFS, I am editing the new Fast For Freedom Prayer Guide. I am not naturally an editor… the editing and perfecting process is PAINFUL.
This concept should be the same for how we tell our own personal stories. We have to learn what details to say, and when to say them. We have to learn to know our audience. We have to learn how to effectively communicate our personal stories, because they shape our understanding of ourselves. If we do not learn how to re-tell our stories in the most effective ways, we will stay in mediocre positions in life, because we do not believe we can excel. If we do not learn how to re-tell our stories, we will re-victimize ourselves every moment we think of, or tell, our story. If we do not learn how to re-tell our stories, we will never understand or know who we are. If we do not learn how to re-tell our stories, we will never be able to invoke change in others because we cannot invoke change in ourselves. Human naturally focus on the negatives, on the differences. If we do not learn to re-tell our stories in a way that the positives shine through stronger than the negatives, we will never be able to help others do the same. When you can look at your life, and see the positives in life shine brighter than the negatives – that is a sign of true freedom.
I am not there yet. I am working towards true and full freedom through my personal faith journey, and am learning the power of my story. It has been a long and hard road to get here, undoubtedly with some future dips and sharp curves up ahead. But, I can say that freedom is a process, and as a survivor, I am more free now than I was yesterday, and I will be more free tomorrow than I am today. For years I’ve been telling my story in first draft form. I’m learning that I am the editor of my own story, and I must go through the painful process to be able to communicate it effectively. My personal story is powerful, and it deserves to be told in its best form.