Everybody has a story.
A major part of my personal mission is to:
- Share my own story to point people toward God and hope.
- Encourage others to share their stories, too.
We need to hear each other’s stories, because stories say, “You’re not alone. I’ve been there, too. I understand.”
That is powerful stuff.
But, you know what else is powerful?
Listening to someone else share their story with no judgment. Only love.
Afraid to share
Recently, I was reminded of friends in my life who heard my story of bulimia and divorce pretty early on—even before I shared it on my blog or on social media. These friends offered me a safe zone to share, listened without judgment, and reacted in love.
I don’t think I realized at the time just how much I needed that. How much I needed to share my faults and failures without feeling rejected or losing respect.
You see, for so many years of my past, I lived in fear of being judged if I wasn’t perfect. If I messed up or failed at things. If I didn’t have it all together. If people knew the real me.
So, I acted as perfect and put together as possible. I hid all the messy stuff. I suppressed what I felt deviated too much from people’s perception of me, or what I thought would be accepted as normal.
After a while, living like that became a reflex. Instinctual almost.
And then, one day, I left my ex-husband and admitted to my eating disorder all in one day. All the secrecy came pouring out. But, my fear of rejection and judgment was so intense that I ran away from everything in my life. I moved to Florida, a place where no one knew me. It was pure survival mode.
I thought I could start fresh, almost like a clean slate.
And yet, it was nothing like a clean slate because I still knew who I was. What I had done. I still lived in fear that if anyone found out about my past, about the messiest parts of my life, that I would be judged. “You did that?” I imagined people saying… or thinking, which was almost worse.
So, I once again hid the shameful parts of my life and focused on maintaining that perfect persona.
Let me tell you, it was a miserable way to live.
Trusting others with your story
I remember the first few times in Florida when I finally shared parts of my story—my bulimia recovery and the details of my divorce. These were one-on-one or small group conversations, and I was terrified. Mentally, I prepared myself for negative reactions or some sort of body language that indicated I had lost the respect of these people.
But guess what?
That didn’t happen. I did not feel less than. I did not feel judged or rejected. I felt… loved… and accepted for who I was—past me and present me. It was a bit unbelievable at first. And then, a massive relief.
The reactions of those I told early on encouraged me to keep sharing my story with more people. Sometimes to be transparent, and sometimes to help others who might be struggling with an eating disorder or divorce, or even putting up a façade like I did for so long.
And that’s why I share today—in this blog, on social media, and even at a women’s conference. I share more publicly now because of the private acceptance I received when I was still so afraid of losing it.
Love does not condone
I do want to note that giving acceptance and love are not the same as condoning anyone’s actions. Heck, I don’t condone my own bad decisions. I was never looking for a free pass or someone to tell me I didn’t do anything wrong.
I simply wanted a listening ear and the assurance that messing up did not disqualify me from love.
Listen and love
This is the heart of what I’m getting at here.
Yes, share your own story.
Yes, give hope to others who need to hear what you have to say.
But, remember this: Throughout your life, you will be on the receiving end of other people’s stories. And, you may be among the first they decide to tell.
Each time, you have a choice. You can judge them. Or, you can love them for who they are, recognizing that we are all human and flawed in our own ways.
I like how the New Living Translation spells it out in Galatians 6:2-3:
2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
So, the next time you hear someone’s story, listen and love. Your impact will be life-changing. I promise!
3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Listening to Someone’s Story”
I had just heard tidbits about your journey. But since I hadn’t heard it directly from you, I thought it wasn’t my place to judge. Now, I’m just glad God knew you better than me, and still loved you unconditionally. Your story is an inspiration and a blessing. We all have stories about our journeys. My story is about being hurt by church people. But, the same story is filled with times God wrapped his arms around my hurting heart, and kept me safe from lasting harm. Times when God miraculously intervened, let me know He always had my back. I rejoice with you!
Dale, thank you for that respect of not judging without hearing it from me. I am sure there was a lot of truth to what you heard, but also know there were rumors. In any case, I appreciate you!
And thank you for sharing this part of your story. It’s incredible how God is using you now, in spite of being hurt. God is the only one we can always count on. He is most definitely worthy of our rejoicing 🙌
I remembered I did a lesson on “Listening” a while back. Here are my notes…
Is listening a form of communication? The answer is Yes! By actively listening to others you can convey these important ideas and attitudes.
1. I am interested in you as a person.
2. I think what you are saying is important.
3. I respect your point of view, and even if I don’t agree with it or see it your way, I respect your right to say it.
4. I am not trying to evaluate or change you as a person. I am only trying to understand you better.
5. I think you are worth listening to, and I want you to know that I am the kind of person to whom you can confide.