The Art of Storytelling
Are you a good storyteller? I think we all are a lot better storytellers than we realize. We tell ourselves stories every day. In fact we do it automatically. Sometimes those stories are factual, but many times they are a work of fiction.
For example, I’m at the grocery store and I see an old classmate from high school. He walks right by me and doesn’t acknowledge I’m there. I’m already creating a story. I tell myself that Michael still thinks he is too good for some people. I’ll ignore him too. The reality is Michael could be thinking the same about me. He might not remember me or be afraid of not remembering my name. Michael might not have even seen me.
Another example, Danny never answers the phone when I call. The story I make is that Danny has some personal vendetta against me or that I get on his nerves. It could be that I always call during busy work hours for Danny or that Danny never picks the phone up for anyone.
The point is we all make up stories every day and you would be surprised to find out how many are creative works of fiction. Even when they do hold some truth we often don’t know enough information to understand the whole picture. Many times these stories we make up almost automatically uncover more about us than the characters in our stories.
So how do we learn to tell different stories; i.e. make different meanings of any given situation? One is to practice giving others the benefit of the doubt. That’s part of what I think the Apostle Paul meant in his famous love passage, “Love believes all things, hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). It’s not that he expects us to be naive, but rather to look for the best in others. Negativity is habitual. Our minds can quickly assume the worse. Unfortunately I know, without awareness, mine can. The good news though, is that 1) we weren’t originally created to be that way and 2) with practice we can learn a better way (Romans 12:2).
Second, we can gain much headway in this area if we do like my Faithwalking coach always says and choose to remain curious. Instead of making assumptions, assume that we don’t have the whole picture, because in many cases we don’t. Preach different scenarios to yourself and if the situation is important enough, ask questions for clarity. I’ve discovered that remaining curious instead of assuming the worst often opens the door to regaining my peace, perspective and joy as well as growing in understanding. You may feel anxious in the thought of asking others clarifying questions, but trust me, it’s much better to enter into that anxiety than remaining in an assumptive, anxious state that can gnaw at you from the inside out and deteriorate your emotional health and relationships.
So what stories are you telling yourself today and which ones could you possibly need to write a new one?