The Purpose and Promise of Story

November 2nd, 2023 by Kelly Kienzle

Humans have told stories to each other since we could first communicate.  We told these stories for the purpose of understanding how the world worked and to understand loss, anger, joy and love.

Then and now, we also tell stories to ourselves to understand our own behaviors. “I forgot the appointment because I struggle with a schedule.” “I don’t ever ask for raises because I’m a person who doesn’t care much about money.”  “She left me because I’m really not a good person, just like my dad told me.”  These are all stories we create to explain our behavior – – and they are enormously unhelpful to us.

Look both ways before crossing a street, even when the street looks empty.  That’s a helpful story to me.  A helpful story is one that moves us forward, supports us to be happy and creates a sense of pride.

However, we sometimes arrive at a place in our lives where we are bone-tired of our unhelpful stories.  They weigh on us.  We have grown weary and want to put down those bags we carry, filled with those story-stones.

Yet to put down the story-stones would be to remove a piece of our identity, however onerous that identity might be.  “If I’m not the person who struggles to commit, who will I be?”  We face a void.  And the void scares us.  We don’t know what to do with a void.

However, this is where the promise of a helpful story begins.  If we have the courage to put down the old story, if only for a moment. Then in that moment, we can begin a new story.  We can leap onto that blank canvas and start to construct something new.  And perhaps it will be a story that delights us.

In fact, the new story always holds the promise to delight us, because we are the authors.  It was not a story written or shaped by someone else from earlier in our lives.  It is not even shaped by the earlier version of who we were.  Instead, this new story is written by who we are right now.  And that person has never existed before – – we are each shiny and new, right now.

And that person will never exist again.  So let us seize that idea of who we are and place it as the cornerstone of the new story we can begin to build, of ourselves and for ourselves.

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