Listening to one another's stories:
-brings us together
-makes us more human
-gives us context for understanding each other better
-reveals our hearts
-draws us together
-makes us more of a "real" person
-reveals what we have in common
-makes us appreciate others more
-reveals areas we were unaware of before
-reveals how much more we have in common than differences
-fills in gaps about the "why's" of people's actions/behavior
-rids us of false impressions we might have had
-clarifies things we only vaguely knew before
-and a lot more...
The sum total of the above is that we are drawn together to better:
-be of the same mind toward one another
-be devoted to one another
-give greater preference to one another
-help to not judge one another
-build up one another
-accept one another
-bear one another's burdens
-care for one another
-serve one another
-tolerate one another in love
-be kind to one another
-be subject to one another
-consider one another more important than ourselves
-bear with one another
-forgive one another
These and other similar exhortations draw us closer to fulfilling the command of Christ to truly love one another as God loves us.
Sadly, most of us define people by a few skewed perceptions. We are quick to label a person based upon what someone else has said about them, or our own quick conclusions from distorted or partial facts. People seem a lot different when we know their story.
I know in my own life I do this all the time. I tend to define people by a single action, word, attitude, behavior, or impression. A brief encounter and I unconsciously label people: boring/interesting, liberal/conservative, shallow, uninteresting, creative, cry-baby, know-it-all, hick, bad/good, want to know better/never want to see again, useful, proud, etc. How is it that we are so quick to define an entire person's life solely on the basis of a quick impression, out-of-context facts, an incident, appearances, a word spoken, or hasty conclusions?
It upsets me to know others define me as something I am not. It hurts to be unfairly labled by the distorted conclusions people make about me based upon fragments of my story.
Recently I was hurt to find out a fellow brother in Christ despises me in his heart. This is someone with whom we have worked closely for many years. Why? I was born in the USA. No other considerations factor into the equation. I am an American, therfore I am the embodiment of all that he thinks is wrong about America. He doesn't see Guy Muse, he sees an ugly American.
Unfair? Of course it is. But that is what most of us do all the time with each other. We make judgements about people based on a few distorted facts or impressions without knowing the other persons story.
Suggestions for telling our story:
-allow time for "small talk" but suggest listening to one another's stories
-"break the ice" by being the first to share your story
-take the time needed to really hear one another's story
-ask questions allowing for further clarification
-share only what you are comfortable sharing, but enough to allow us to get to know the real you
-share family background and upbringing
-share struggles (people tend to identify more with weaknesses than achievements)
-influences in my life, key people
-how I got to where we are now
-who I am in my own eyes, how do I see myself?
-key milestones in my spiritual journey
-how I met Jesus
-events/experiences that have helped shape my life
-passions, interests, hobbies
-mistakes and what was learned
-pray for the person after hearing their story
What is important in all the above is that we get to know each other beyond that which is superficial. What makes people interesting is what is on the inside. The more we know one another, the easier it is to love and accept them for who they are. We want to know the real you, not the masks we hide behind. To know is to know.