The master was unmoved. To all their objections he would say, ‘You have yet to understand that the shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story. –Anthony de Mello
Having the courage to tell your true story changes the world. The novel and recent film adaption of The Help has captured the hearts of so many because it depicts the civil rights struggles of millions into memorable and heart breaking stories of characters so rich in detail that they are people we have all known somewhere in our lives. All of the facts I had learned of this time–separate but equal, Jim Crow laws, Klu Klux Klan–came alive in the context of these fictional yet very real lives.
The women who shared their stories in The Help, knew they were risking their jobs, their safety and even their lives by revealing their truth. Yet they were compelled by the courage of King and the movement he lead to own their lives by sharing their stories. This is fiction but you wish it were true, because even months later, their stories live in me like old friends I wished I had.
This is the power of storytelling. When we share our true moments, we convert our daily experience into clear and powerful meaning. Our stories are the currency we exchange that last far beyond any passing on of material wealth. Our stories are how we know ourselves and how we learn about and hold onto the family we are born into. The stories are what make our families and our friendships our own.
Many of us never share our true stories. We feel compelled to tell the story that will be acceptable. We give up our truth to not make waves, to keep others from being hurt, to trick ourselves into not seeing what is in front of us. These tactics don’t really work. We know when we have lost touch with our selves or the people we love and usually it is reflected in our stories. They are shallow and feel thin as we share them. They don’t capture our attention or our imagination and at their most base they resemble lies.
This is the main distinction between the courage to tell our true stories and the other talking that passes for communication. When we give up our stories for what is politically correct we lose what is most precious to us. I think about this as I work on compiling the true story of my own positivity quest. Each time I weigh how much I feel safe to expose with what is lost by the edit, I have to choose again between the truth in me and what I shouldn’t say.
I want to find the courage to share my true story. The one that is thick with meaning and shows me what I am really connected to. This is where transparency means the most, when you get a glimpse of the inside of someone else, you begin to see yourself more clearly, because deep in most true stories we can all be found.