Everyone Has A Story

One of the things I love about writing nonfiction is the opportunity to connect with people, to have complete strangers open up to me. In other contexts, this might feel really uncomfortable, but the interview format sets us at ease. And what I’ve learned is this: everyone has a story. Everyone has something to teach.

Before Christmas, when I was writing a cover story about infertility—despite having been through it myself—I came to a new understanding of a beautiful truth: that suffering really is redemptive, if you allow it to be. There’s something about having your soul flayed open, the way it is with more or less unexplained infertility, that reshapes your whole life. I knew this already from my own experience, but hearing other people say it aloud stamped it into my consciousness in a new way. This insight I have carried with me into the new year, already ¼ past.

Yesterday, I did a phone interview with a couple in an earlier time zone for an upcoming article. As we spoke about communication within marriage, as we talked about husbands’ and wives’ responsibilities to each other, about strategies for coping with uneven physical desire (very practical stuff, with a liberal seasoning of spirituality), I found myself applying the lessons to my own life.

You have to pick sources carefully—or so the conventional wisdom goes. You’ve got to find someone capable of articulating what it is you need to know. That’s a two-part requirement, and you’d think it would be hard to accomplish.

But.

The more people I get to know through interviews, the more I realize that everyone has something to share. I just have to listen with my heart, and ask the right questions. And the best part is, when I succeed, it changes me.

So if I ever ask you to share your thoughts for an article, don’t sell yourself short, thinking you can’t possibly have anything useful to add. I know you do. And I know it’s going to make the world a better place–starting with me.

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Published in: on March 28, 2011 at 6:45 am  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Listening with the heart and asking the right questions – yes, those are the two most important parts of learning from others. I love learning from others, too…probably why I love the blogosphere so much where people have a tendency to “lay it out there”.

    • Yes, exactly!

  2. Great thoughts here.

    Knowing that everyone has a story also makes me remember that they’re people, too; valuable, unique and human, just like me. It makes it harder to hate them or be prejudiced against them.

    Pain is definitely redemptive if you let it be. I know I wouldn’t be the same person I am now if I hadn’t been through all the crazy bipolar stuff, the eating disorder in college, etc. My writing wouldn’t be the same and I wouldn’t respond to others’ suffering in the same way.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. It’s hard for me at times to picture suffering as redemptive, yet I know that it can be. And yes, we all have a story. I’ve learned the hard way that you have to be cautious about judging people, because you haven’t walked in their shoes and don’t always know what they’ve been through. My experiences with an anxiety disorder, depression, and other serious problems have taught me that…

    Can good come out of these things? I pray so. Lately I’ve struggled with keeping my spirits up and not give in to doubt and despair. At times I wonder if God is withholding blessings/assistance because of any sinfulness of mine, so I rack my brain, trying to think of what I might have done to incur His displeasure. But an answer may not come, so I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the meanwhile.

    Evan

    • That’s something we all struggle with, wondering if we’re being punished, but that’s not how God works. Pain and suffering are in the world b/c of sin, but God can use them to do something beautiful. And sometimes we don’t know what the big picture is until much later…perhaps not even at all. And that’s the tough part. Hugs.

      • True, not having the answers that we want makes coping with our suffering even more difficult, but perhaps it’s a time to learn patience and develop our emotional and spiritual muscles. Sometimes there will be no answers–at least not this side of heaven. That’s when I have to say “Jesus, I trust in you.”

  4. I love hearing other people’s stories. You’re right. They add to the richness of life.

  5. Great post. I once discovered that God not only puts people in my path so I can help them or influence them in some way, but also that they may help me or influence me!


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