“I’m learning a lot from your book. I wrote down my story in one paragraph and am focusing not to tell it again.”
(Facebook message I received from a man on Sunday)
He’d just finished reading chapter three in my forgiveness book and he took the challenge! What challenge? To keep quiet.
Let’s be honest. Telling your story might be a little bit fun. Okay, it can be a lot of fun! But it eventually paralyzes you.
After you’ve been hurt, two things usually happen and people rarely connect the dots:
- You tell your story
- You struggle to forgive
It turns out your story is part of the problem. Every time you tell someone else what your offender did, you strike a match in your heart lighting a bitter flame.
I know this about you – you’re telling a story right now. Even if you’re not telling anyone else your story, you’re telling yourself your story. So, what’s your story?
Here are three reasons you should be paying attention to the story you’re telling:
Reason #1: Your Story Fuels Your Emotions
Your mind is like a filing cabinet full of categorized memories. For instance, every time you recall a memory from the emotional category of “anger” you access the other anger memories filed nearby. Maybe you’ve notice when you’re telling your story that you often remember other times you’ve felt angry and you feel yourself suddenly more “fired up”. Your story is fueling your emotions.
Reason #2: Your Story Isolates You
Every time you tell your story, you further isolate yourself from the people you most care about. Repeating your story as a victim quickly removes your warmth. You are pushing people away by rehashing your story. Even though you want to draw sympathy and support, your story sounds like a broken record and people can endure that kind of noise for only so long.
Reason #3: Your Story Reveals Your Heart
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” -Luke 6:45
Your public words reveal your private heart. Your story is your heart’s MRI. So pay attention to what you’re saying and what you allow your mind to dwell on.
- Betrayed by his friend Judas
- Abandoned by his closest friends, the disciples
- Rejected by the religious at Caiaphas’ Council
- Physically and emotionally assaulted by strangers
- Humiliated in public by Herod
- Falsely condemned by Pilate
- Publicly crucified
If anyone was ever entitled to tell his story as a victim, it was Jesus. But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus did something odd.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. — Isaiah 53:3-7, emphasis added
“When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’ But
Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.” — Matthew 27:12-14, emphasis added
Jesus said nothing.
If his answers had been transcribed, it would have read “. . . .”
As I read these verses, I feel myself begging Jesus to defend himself and shout something like, “People, I’m innocent! I’m holy. I’m your creator. I could speak and the earth would swallow you up. I could dropkick you from Jerusalem to Rome! Don’t you know who I am?”
That’s what I want him to say. That’s the story I would shout.
This treatment of Jesus isn’t fair! These people obviously misunderstood Jesus and his motives. Why didn’t Jesus speak and clear things up?
He could have at least said, “People, I’m here to save you. After all, I created you and I know you intimately. I left Heaven so that we can have a relationship. These charges are false.”
But our Savior said nothing.
The maker of vocal cords waited in complete silence.
I envision extended periods of awkward, pin-drop silence in Pilate’s court. Even today, we’re struck dumb by Jesus’ non-answer answers. Why didn’t he speak?
I believe it’s because Jesus knew something I often forget: words get in the way.
Jesus taught that forgiveness isn’t found in speaking, but in surrendering. Forgiveness isn’t found in defending, but in dying.
That’s why I feel so much encouragement when someone chooses to stop telling his or her victim story. That’s what our Savior did.
That doesn’t mean you should carry your burden alone. Choose one or two people, like your spouse, a close friend, a pastor, or a counselor with whom you can share your story.
But stop telling everyone else.
Even pin-drop, awkwardly silent.