I love stories. I enjoy the extras in a story – the nuances, colors, and textures that make a story wonderfully unique. Experience reminds me that storytellers seem to tell you more than they intend, especially if they think you are listening.
There is a catch. Embedded within the storyline are assumptions and perspectives. For the people in the story, they may see things differently. In the extreme, the story can be filled with sugar or filled with thorns. It can be difficult to know fact from fiction, flowers from bites.
As I listened to a fourth-hand story where I was a character, I could see the bias that can creep in at any time. It was hard to accept. The innocent accept a story from another without perspective or question. Another with an agenda will use it as a weapon. Stories can help or be the painful experience that many have complained about over the years. The statement of those before us still rings true; “They gossiped about the one you disciplined, made up stories about anyone wounded by God.” (Psalm 69.26)
I find myself reaching for two reminders. I need to be careful with the stories I tell. My words can heal or hurt, nurture or tear down. Being intentional with my stories is the starting point. Doing do reflectively brings any story closer to my values and protects every character in the story.
I also need to let go of my reactions to the stories told by others. I know they can hurt. I understand they can sting. Stories can push one into a very dark corner. Yet, and there is a “but”, my response is just that, my own. I have the opportunity and the right to decide how I will respond. At times, my emotions are at the top of my throat, overwhelming, and threatening to explode even as I try to control them. As personal, threatening, and unfair as any story can be, what happens next with it rests within my control.
Stories are wonderful, especially when treated with care.