Of the 50+ one anothers in the New Testament, I am not aware of any that exhort us to listen to one another's stories. Yet, I know of no better way to begin fulfilling the one another passages than by listening to each other'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...
-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, we often define people by a few skewed perceptions. We are quick to label a person based on 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 stories.
I am guilty of this in my own life. I tend to define people by a single action, word, attitude, behavior, or impression. It only takes a brief encounter and I unconsciously label people: boring/interesting, liberal/conservative, shallow, uninteresting, creative, crybaby, know-it-all, hick, bad/good, useful, proud, etc. How can we be so quick to define an entire person's life solely on the basis of a quick impression, out-of-context facts, a single incident, appearances, a word spoken, or hasty conclusions?
I don't like it when others define me as something I am not. It hurts to be unfairly labeled by distorted conclusions based on fragments of my 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 others 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 one's life, key people
-how we 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 we learned from them
-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.