I think of stories in three parts: 1) my story; 2) your story; and 3) our story. I don’t believe we can ever truly get to our collective story without first excavating the story within each of us. What will we find in the deepest parts of ourselves? In the darkest depths of pain, despair, and longing? In the substance of our hopes and dreams?
In Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer, he gives us a glimpse of what the answers to those questions could be: “Go far enough on the inner journey, they all tell us—go past ego toward true self—and you end up not lost in narcissism but returning to the world, bearing more gracefully the responsibilities that come with being human” (p. 73).
This inner journey scares people, so they push aside their own story. They mine the stories of others in order to know how to live. They create a shared narrative for a variety of personal reasons: not wanting to appear selfish, pursuing something larger or more meaningful, or simply believing that every story matters except their own.
My story matters because I learn a valuable lesson about myself: the answer to the question, “Why?” It is in my story that I begin to understand my values, beliefs, and motivations. My sins, biases, fears, and judgments. My strengths and weaknesses.
This story is tremendously valuable because it provides a hook to hang the stories of others upon. When I truly know myself, only then can I let myself go without fear. It is in the deepest of knowing that I can let the worries and anxieties melt away. The noise fades away, leaving the silent wonder within to guide me to finally hear the stories of others.