The Power of a Story (plus, 10 things we fear)

Everyone likes stories. I think. 

"Researcher story-teller" Brene Brown defined story as, "data with a soul."

A more stodgy definition is, "An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious." (source)

For an example of a brief, well-told story, you might enjoy this short piece about a conversation between two ladies Donald Miller overheard at a restaurant.  I enjoyed it.

In fact, this story really touched me – and challenged me.  It raised questions: Why am I not always honest in my relationships?  Why do I have this tendency to always want to, "smooth things over" instead of speaking plain truth? 

Sure, I understand there is a balance between truth and love, but when I catch myself talking ill about someone behind their back, it’s probably time I be talking directly with the offending party.

Does my reluctance in being straight-forward in delicate situations come from a fear of hurting others?  Or a fear that I’ll get an angry response?  Or a fear they’ll even reject me completely if I speak the truth?  Probably all the above. 

What’s amazing is that this short story Miller told raised all these questions within me, and affected me at a core level.  That is the power of story.

As an aside, regarding fear, I heard this quote recently, "Sin is nearly always born out of fear, and codified in pride." 

Here are some things we can fear:

  1. We fear that God won’t work all things together for good, so manipulate circumstances to help God out.
  2. We fear that God won’t lead (or will lead where we don’t want), so take the wheel instead.
  3. We fear that God won’t meet our deepest needs, so look for quick substitutes to meet our own needs. 
  4. We fear that God does not exist, so live as if this world is all there is.
  5. We fear that God does exist, and that we’re in big trouble.
  6. We fear death, so hedge our lives with safety nets. 
  7. We fear life, so drug ourselves with entertainment’s amnesia.
  8. We fear losing our stuff, so insure everything. 
  9. We fear intimacy, so build walls around our hearts.
  10. We fear fear, but don’t know how to stop.

I shouldn’t say, "we."  I should say, "I."   I fear, I fear, I fear.  *sigh*

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7, KJV)

But this bunny trail on fear has got me far afield of my original topic: the power of story!  (Focus Nick, Focus)

Jesus taught mainly through stories.  Why?  Because a story sticks. 

Which do you think makes more impact:

  1. being told, "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself," or
  2. being told the poignant story of The Good Samaritan? 

I think the latter.  The theme in that story is absolutely relevant today, the ramifications of “who is my neighbor” something I even now struggle with and often think about.

So, what exactly is the Power of a Story?  Perhaps this quote sheds some light:

A message prepared in a mind, reaches a mind.
A message prepared in a heart, reaches a heart.
But a message prepared in a life, reaches a life.

The power of story is that it is a message from a life that can reach a life.