“Everyone has a story that will break your heart.
And, if you’re really paying attention, most people have a story that
will bring you to your knees.” – Brené Brown
Every single day I’m reminded that everyone has a story. Not one of us is immune from compelling defining moments – experiences that contribute to how we make sense of the world and influence how we respond, especially in extremely difficult or even tragic circumstances. Whether I hear a poignant tale of a family who stands to lose the ability to pay for life-saving drugs, or a client whose family business may not be able to withstand the complexities associated with our global economy , or a workshop participant who reveals they are raising a disabled child on their own – I am always taken with how much in common we humans have when it comes to having, and finding ways, to grapple with our personal stories.
What touches me the most is how many times I have seen individuals embrace their vulnerability by sharing their story with others. In the leadership program I facilitate at the Grand Rapids Areas Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Advantage and Leading Edge, we create a context in which sharing stories is the basis of deep personal reflection. It is the safety of this context that allows the story teller to gain access to a wealth of inner wisdom that otherwise might live inside, unnoticed. Certainly, that would leave the story teller bereft of meaningful insights that could potentially reinforce their worthiness and strength to carry on. Equally sad would be the potential loss for those around them, who wouldn’t have an opportunity to experience the power of their common humanity, in attempts to learn with, and from, the story teller. In spite of the commonality of this human condition, many of us shy away from either telling our stories, or hearing someone else’s.
Whether at work, at home, or in the community, at some point you likely will find yourself not wanting to be caught up in hearing someone else’s story, for fear you will be thrown into something that will overwhelm you. The next time that happens, I recommend that you hit the pause button and remember that someday, at some incredibly important point in time, you will be that person – needing to wrestle with the truth and meaning of your story and seeking the strength to carry on. Instead of defaulting to a flight instinct, embrace your humanity. Go towards the story teller rather than back away. Even if you both are brought to your knees, you most certainly can grab onto each other and stand right back up.