People are people. Do you get this?
It's so easy for most of us when we tell our stories to tell them through our eyes. After all, that's how we saw them. We saw them with our eyes, heard them with our ears, felt them with our hearts. That taints every story a little bit; it's unavoidable. And sometimes, I think it's too easy to tell our stories so that others will agree with us, so they will draw the same conclusions we've drawn. Or worse, so they will start to think what we want them to think or that they'll start to think what they think they should think.
It really makes a mess of things.
And then there's this - we hear stories through our own ears. We take in the information through our own filters; we process through our own heart. Which means we can often find the very thing we're looking for, whether it's in there or not.
It's so hard to tell our stories. When we dare to, we cannot account for all of the variables.
Yet in the past week, I heard a few words that humbled and comforted me, thinking that maybe at least in part, I'm getting this storytelling right.
My story has some hard things in it. It has some truths that not everyone would agree on; it has some hard pills to swallow. If you've been reading long, you know I don't make it my platform, and it is for this very reason - so as not to cause pain to those who would struggle to digest my words. (And also because, uhm, it doesn't define me. There's also that.) But sometimes, it's necessary to say such things, and when I do, I attempt to do so with grace. It's the only way.
And the words I heard this past week were this: "But when you talk about (this person) in your story, I really just see (him/her) as a person. I don't get that (he/she) is a monster or evil or anything. You do a really good job of helping me to see (him/her) as just a person."
That's what grace does.
Any other way, and I'm telling someone else's story. If I tell a story through my lens, then you see what I saw. And if you ever see that person in the Wal-Mart, you see what I've told you to see. That's not fair. That's not what story is supposed to do. With grace, we tell our stories through God's lens. We accept responsibility for our own hearts and for our own parts, but we don't tell someone else's story. We just tell God's. And let me tell you - that's the story we should be telling. Now, if you see that person in the Wal-Mart, you have a chance to see what they might want you to see. Or better yet, what God would have you see.
People are people, and people are broken. I'm broken. You're broken. It's hard to talk about. It's hard to tell stories. It's hard not to focus on the brokenness in someone else. It's too easy to paint a perfect picture - where we're nice and innocent and someone else is guilty. But that's just not what our stories should do. Our stories should show God - in us, in the other, in the world - and nothing more. We can only do that when we tell our stories in a way that lets others see people as people. When we tell our stories with grace.
And you know what happens? When friends and family and those who hear your story start to see people as people, they start to see you as people, too. Did you know that? Back to what my friend said to me - if I told my story in such a way that she saw a monster, then what does that make me? The victim of a monster. I am now defined by someone else's story I've decided to tell. If my friend sees that person as evil, then what am I? Haunted by evil? Is that really how I want to be defined? Of course not.
But she sees people as people as I tell my story with grace, and when she looks at me, she sees people, too. And when she looks at everything, she sees God working in His people. That's what story is for.
So tell your story, and only your story. Use ample grace. And you may just find you're telling a bigger story. God's story. Where people are just people and every man is God's.