Of Stories and Storytellers

It Started Eighty Years Ago
I have always loved stories. Eighty years ago, my mother read stories to me when I was just a little boy, and she taught me to read years before I entered grade One. I was already reading Dutch translations of Dickens’ classics and Jules Verne’s science fiction in grades Four and Five. It’s no wonder that I have always written stories, mostly true stories. When our grandkids were young, I told them stories I made up on the spot.

Three Kinds of Stories
Even today, I read, write and tell stories.
1. Some are fiction stories that I may have read or heard, or I may have made up myself; some may be jokes.
2. Some are true stories about other people, which they told me, or which I had read or heard from others.
3. Some are true stories about me. I tell what has happened to me, what I did personally, what I saw, heard, said, and felt.

My Story
This third type of story is the most important to me because it is My Story.
When someone listens attentively to me telling My Story, they are accepting me. They may not agree with everything I did or said during My Story’s events, but if they let me finish My Story, they are accepting, even honouring me.

If, on the other hand, they interrupt me or stop me from telling My Story, their actions do not say, “Your story is not important,” but “You are not important.”

When we interrupt or walk away from someone telling His Story, we reject not just the story but the storyteller. We are our personal Story.

Responding to a Personal Story
After someone tells Their Story, we need to respond somehow—thank them, ask questions, or make some positive comments. We may feel the person did or said something wrong or hear something we disagree with, and we can point that out, but only after hearing their whole story.

To some extent, this is also true when the storyteller is telling someone else’s story. We must be careful not to interrupt since telling that story about someone else is important to the speaker, and we need to listen closely to discover why this is important.

What God Thinks About Our Stories
Jesus pointed out that the words we speak show what is in our hearts, our real inner selves. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45.

We all need to monitor what we store in our memories and emotional centre since Jesus also said, “By your words, you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37.

I have often noticed when someone in a small group has told His Story, there is a second of silence, and the next speaker jumps in with a story of their own. That is as rude as being introduced to a stranger, and instead of conversing briefly with them, turning away immediately to talk with someone else. God has something to say about this too, “Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.” James 1:19

Supernatural Spiritual Power in Our Story
God empowers Our Story with Satan-defeating power when we tell Our Story of what Jesus did for us or through us, or possibly even despite us. Revelation 12:11 describes a group of martyrs. “They triumphed over him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” In other words, they put their faith in the atoning death of Jesus, and they told Their Story of what Jesus had done. As a result, they defeated Satan.

Our ability to tell and to appreciate hearing stories is a beautiful gift from our Creator. Let’s treat this gift with honour, both when telling and when listening to stories.

3 thoughts on “Of Stories and Storytellers

  1. We (in ‘the West’) too often misunderstand ‘listening’.
    Are we
    * taking in / reflecting on / empathising with / analysing someone’s story?
    * merely waiting for ‘our turn’ to take over as the ‘story-teller’?
    * consider it ‘courteous’ to simply remain silent, waiting for ‘our turn’
    * frequently fail to offer the gift of our full attention to others.

    This reflection offers an antidote which we can use to teach ourselves how to listen better. BEFORE we allow ourselves (or others) to redirect the discussion, we can:
    * require ourselves to respond somehow
    * thanking them,
    * asking questions, or
    * making some positive comments
    * [paraphrasing / summarising to confirm understanding]
    * agree or disagree – but only after hearing their whole story.

    This is something I have actively ‘taught’ in management seminars and teacher-training workshops. When people tell me, years later, that they remember a training session – the change they most often value is the way they began to consciously listen to others.

  2. Hi Jack
    All of my formatted indents disappeared.
    If this doesn’t make sense in this format, feel free to simply abandon the post.

    • Thank you, Bryan, for this great summary and your corroborating comments from personal experience in teaching this concept.
      Very encouraging to me. as the saying goes, “Great Minds Think Alike.”

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