We dishonor a story when we interrupt with our advice, believing we can answer or fix things. In our attempts to ease our own discomfort, we often try to explain away things with dismissive or belittling comments like:
- "Oh it isn't that bad."
- "You should have done this …"
- "If you prayed more …"
We also waste another's story when we hijack it as our own. How many times have you experienced the "what-you-just-shared-reminds-me-of-me" response? Resist the temptation to consume another's story and regurgitate your own, saying something like, "Well when I experienced that, I …"
Finally, perhaps the greatest harm we can cause is through gossip. When you're invited into another's story, take your shoes off, because you're entering holy ground. When you take a story that is given to you in trust and instead gossip about it, you've violated a soul. Story really is that sacred.
In my own life and as a small-group leader, I know that story transforms story. When I have created holy space in my small groups for people to tell good stories, we have encountered Jesus more fully and have grown to know and love one another more deeply. What is your story? May you claim it, live it, love it, share it, and invite someone to do the same.
—Jen Oyama Murphy is a former small groups and support & recovery ministry director and is passionate about the substance of stories.