One of the strangest things I’ve witnessed in the past few years is an unwillingness to believe someone else’s personal life story. Repeatedly person A will explain a lived experience with specific details, and then person B will then tell person A why person A’s lived experience is inaccurate.
What is most astounding about these interactions is most of the time, person B neither participated in nor observed person A’s life. Many times they don’t even know person A in real life. Yet, for some reason, they proclaim themselves an expert in a stranger’s thoughts, emotions, and perceptions based on distant online observations and proceed to rewrite person A’s life history. Of course, should someone attempt this same assertion on person B, said person will meet severe condemnation for such offensive questioning of person B’s presentation of their life story. After all, person B is the one who lived their life experiences.
You Have a Story to Share
In his book, This Is Marketing, Seth Godin writes, “Each person has a story in his or her head, a narrative used to navigate the world. The extraordinary thing is that every person’s narrative is different.”
Our stories are the presentation of our perceptions of our reality. I have observed that when our story, intentionally or unintentionally, presses against the boundaries of another person’s story, they aren’t always flexible. In the scenario above, person B feels threatened by person A’s story. Perhaps they haven’t learned to share, and so rather than exist in a Both/And space, person B fortifies the walls around their story, creating a rigid stance insisting their perception is somehow the only reality the entire world must accept.
Perception vs. Reality
Perception is how a person understands something, and different people may have different perceptions of the same thing. On the other hand, reality, or realism, is the truth and the actual existence of something.
Our perceptions are shaped by the society we live in. Our thinking patterns develop through a number of factors, including our cultural values, attitudes, beliefs, education, myths, rules, and laws. The community and culture we grow up in or live in for a long period of time usually have a major impact on the way we think and view the world or a situation.
Of course, there are times when both perspectives about a story are correct. When two people have lived through the same situation, they are entitled to their own views. Many people with more extreme views have difficulty accepting this, so let me give you an example.
Two Perspectives Can Be Correct At The Same Time
Ordell and I were both presents for our sons’ births. However, what we went through physically, emotionally, mentally, and Spiritually was very different. Our view of the delivery was different. As were our conversations with the medical staff. Our memories of the days our sons were born also differ because of our emotional experiences during those special moments.
When we tell our sons both of our perspectives about the day they entered the world, they receive a much fuller understanding of their birth story. They also hear a more truthful story because they are gathering multiple perspectives. If Ordell or I were to silence each other for some reason, we would devalue each other and our sons.
Your Story Matters
It can be disorienting when someone attempts to rewrite your history. Whether you encounter someone who “puts words in your mouth” or redefines your statements by assigning a different context to them, these moments rob you of the opportunity to tell your story. When people tell you that your perception is wrong and their perception is the truth, it usually causes you to pause and question their perspective. If the person who insists on rewriting the truth is a dominant personality, they may harass or bully one into accepting their reality. For many people, it becomes easier to remain silent or comply than retain their original perspective.
When we allow someone else to dominate our story, we risk losing the ability to perceive truth from fiction. Just because someone objects to our lived experiences does not make them accurate. It may be that they object as strongly as they do because they are the ones who need to adjust their perception of culture.
“People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves. What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves. Stories about the future and about the change.”— Seth Godin (Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us)
Your story matters because you matter. Your calling, the non-negotiable thing placed in you by God to glorify him, is our opportunity to partner with our designer in a unique and specific way. We begin to understand our calling by understanding and discovering God’s gifts given to us. We won’t understand our gifts or calling if we change our history or perspective to please someone else.
We have to understand where we came from to clarify where we are headed. Our life history may not be a straight line, but every milestone along the way matters, even the ones we’d rather forget. In Lessons from the Sidelines, I share the stories of amazing women thriving in the sweet spots of their callings. They are all on different journeys and have learned different life lessons along the way.
Thriving in your sweet spot includes figuring out how your Creator designed you as you apply your natural abilities to your calling according to God’s plan, which glorifies him. Part of this journey includes sharing your story because your story matters.
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