In April I met with a local news station to share my story of Sexual Assault for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). It might not make sense to everyone, but I jump at every opportunity to share my story. Why? Because our stories matter.
Our voices matter. They need to be heard. Only one person in all the world or in all of time has your exact story – You!
Each of us has unique experiences and perspectives. We have different families of origin. We have grown up in different places. Interacted with different people. Formed different world views.
Granted, we are not all called to share our stories publicly perhaps, but we are all called to share our stories. We are called to be honest and even vulnerable with those closest to us – a spouse, friend(s), family, etc. Because our stories are powerful when we use them effectively.
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we are given a glimpse into the power our stories hold:
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
Revelation 12:11 NIV
Jesus’ death on the cross defeated Satan. He defeated death and sin. When we accept Jesus as savior, Satan’s power over us is broken too. That is why our stories, or “testimonies” as they are referred to in the verse, defeat Satan too. How? By declaring the work of Jesus in our lives.
Our stories are the gospel message played out practically in our day to day lives. For Christians, every detail of our story points to Jesus and what he is doing in our lives – the triumphs, the struggles, the good, the bad, the hard, the ugly, even the traumatic. We may not see it immediately or even in the moment, but God is at work in the lives of believers:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV
The details of our story can be a source of encouragement for others with similar life experiences too:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
Recipients of healing or comfort are uniquely poised to offer comfort and encouragement to others. We can empathize with them. We can support and encourage them in a way only those who have common experiences can.
Through vulnerability we declare with our words and our actions that it is safe to be vulnerable, honest, and authentic. It is ok to be imperfect. To be human. We dispel false pretenses and expectations people may feel toward us.
Oftentimes going first and sharing our story inspires and gives others the courage to share their stories too. To find their voice. To feel safe to share. Even if it is just with you.
Declaring our stories out loud holds so much power, because staying silent, whether intentional or not, fosters a shame culture. Shame tells us not only are our experiences, emotions, or actions wrong, but we are wrong because of them. Shame is a form of self-rejection as we see parts of our story as something that should be hidden. Shame isolates. It tells us to hide and stay quiet so as not to experience rejection, when in fact the exact opposites true.
Rejecting shame allows us to create authentic connections and space for “me too” moments. “Me too” moments normalize experiences, emotions, and actions. This not only creates connection, but brings healing as we realize we are not alone. We don’t have to continue shouldering our burdens alone.
“Me too” moments can also impart hope. When we share how we have handled certain situations, overcome obstacles, or healed we become the physical evidence of what is possible for others too. If we can heal, they can heal too.
For Christians, sharing our stories brings glory to God. Isaiah 61:3 describes Christians as:
“…oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor (NIV).”
I absolutely love this description and the image it evokes. A vibrant blossoming strong tree stretched to heaven displaying God’s glory. We display God’s glory and splendor when we are open, sharing our stories and all God has done in our lives. We declare God’s faithfulness, goodness, and work in our life.
So, let’s live vulnerably and transparently, sharing our stories whenever we can. Our stories are powerful. Let’s tap into that power and seize the opportunity to create connections, draw others out of isolation, dispel shame and create “me too” moments. Let’s encourage others and glorify God with our unique stories. Being authentic and owning our stories is the embodiment of living in freedom and confidence.