Rising Strong: owning our stories

Here is my single biggest takeaway from Rising Strong:

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I need to ask, “What is the story I’m telling myself?”

Creative Commons "Story Road" by umjanedoan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Creative Commons “Story Road” by umjanedoan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I am too quick to assume – that the person who just tore into me is irredeemably ornery, that I’m not good enough, or that I am too good to be the one creating the problem. None of these default narratives points me toward reflecting more deeply on the situation, reaching out for help, or looking for a solution. They are interpretations, and narrow, blame-inducing ones at that.

As an extreme introvert, I am especially prone to spinning a whole story in my head without fact-checking it, then acting on it like it is true. “What is the story I’m telling myself?” is a way of getting out of my head and sharing my perspective without making hearers defensive, since I’m not claiming that my outlook is gospel.

Instead, Brené Brown suggests I get at the whole story by asking myself:

  • What am I leaving out in my default narratives?
    • What am I feeling? Why?
    • What am I thinking?
    • What am I believing?
    • What am I doing?
  • What information do I need to flesh out and own this story?
    • about myself
    • about others

Not only are these the questions that I often neglect to ask, they are the ones that congregations need help raising to address subversive narratives of shame and blame. Churches – especially well-established ones – will have trouble moving forward until they are able to unearth and discuss sources of  resistance. Only when they are well-aware of feelings and dynamics will they be able to love and trust enough to risk doing new things.



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