So that rich story is what connects us to other people, too. That’s what they want. They want who we really are, not who we really aren’t. And we were all designed – our brains are designed – for story. That’s what it is. That’s how our brain works. We relate to each other through our stories – not just the accomplishments and the successes, but the failures and mistakes, as well – the true story, the open story. I, one time, read a book about all the mistakes famous therapists made that they told in their own words – very helpful – the true story without deception.
I was talking to one of my most respected clients some time back. When she was a young teen, her mother died. And her father isn’t in her life, so she had to move away from the life she lived to a whole other city, which happened to be this one, and live with her cousin and her cousin’s four children. So you’ve got a new teenager in this already big family. Her therapy has been one of building a full story of what happened to her. She just added another excellent piece to that story. She’s now looking at her last year of high school and college beyond that. In weeks past, she’s lamented that she doesn’t know how she’s going to get to do that, because she doesn’t have any money, and she doesn’t really feel like she should be staying with her cousin any longer, because she’s old enough to be on her own. She’s been worried about that. She came in a while back, and she told me this story. She said, “I was talking to my boyfriend’s father and he said, ‘You know, you’ve had a lot of hard things happen to you – your father, your mother, uprooting your life and having to build a new one when you’re in the middle of your teenage years – but you know with every bad thing comes something good. Do you know how much money you can get to go to college because of all these hard things that have happened to you – scholarships, financial support, health insurance? You live in a country where people respect the way you have dealt with your hardship. And they will help you.’” And she said, “I never thought of that! I had no idea!” I said, “How does it feel?” She said, “Well, I’m still really sad that my mom died, and I’m still really angry at my dad for dumping me, but, as long as I had to have that, it’s really great to think about getting some help.” And then she went on to talk about what she hopes to become, and where she wants to go to school, and the field she wants to study, and the place she wants to live.
So her story started out, when I met her, as one of despair. And she truly was a child that nobody really took care of. But now, it includes hope and plans for the future. When she started out telling her despairing story, my heart went out to her, because it was all genuine. There wasn’t any cover up. And you know, when we got to the anxious and the depressed part, I was worried for her. But now that things are looking up, I find that I’m encouraged by her. We just can’t help but go with people every step of the way when they tell us their real story.
So, one key to having others with us and to being genuine is to be willing to tell our story to people – even the parts that make us feel a little uncomfortable. So how do we do that? How do we find the courage to talk about the mistakes, and the bad things, and to admit that we’re stuck, stuck, stuck – as my friend said? Well, that takes courage. Where does that come from? Well, for Christians, it comes from God, doesn’t it? So, if we’re open to Him, He’ll see us, He’ll forgive us, He’ll take care of us, and He promises that He’s got our backs, if we’re just open with Him.