“The only way to understand people’s behavior and help them transform is to get on the inside of their stories. This takes a great deal of trust, time, and patience, and it can only be done in love. It can never be accomplished if we are judging them.”
“When we experience their stories from the inside, we understand people better and are moved with compassion toward them. And this understanding gives us a wisdom – the wisdom to love – to know what to do to help them grow out of their destructive behavior.”
Greg Boyd, Repenting of Religion
Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of “off the record” conversations with pastors, ministry leaders, and church members where at some point, their brokenness shows itself. If you think my experience is unique, think again. Stories are the entry-point into the brokenness that exists in people’s lives. That brokenness is carefully concealed behind what I call a person’s foyer façade. In the church foyer, everyone is “fine.” The battles people are fighting are carefully concealed and rarely talked about. I’m not saying that every conversation should be an airing of what hurts. However, not every conversation ought to be ruled by the etiquette of pretense or polite courtesy.
Telling our story overrides pretense and invites others to relate to the “real” us instead of the contrived us. It is the first step toward being known as you are, not as you pretend to be. When we relate to one another from behind a façade, we perpetuate the myth that “real” Christians don’t struggle or have problems. In his book, Strong Winds and Crashing Waves, Terry Wardle observes, “ … the church is uncomfortable with weakness and enamored with strength. But that is not the way of Christ and his kingdom” (52). The biblical characters we celebrate were not invincible but human, the same as you and me. Consider the woman at the well, or Peter. What about Zacchaeus, and the prodigal? We glory in what they once were, shamed, arrogant, thieving, and wandering. Sadly, when it comes to our story, we tend to edit or distance ourselves from similar chapters.
How do we become the kind of community where pretense is abhorred while vulnerability and honest confession are quietly encouraged? We begin by telling our own story and inviting others to do the same.