We are storied creatures. We live out of interpreted experiences and memories. These stories impact our behavior and our growth.
If we want to change or grow — in any aspect of our lives — we must address our defining stories. Because all stories are not created equal. Some are false and distorted, either causing us to see ourselves as less than we are or more than we are. Humility is simply living out of accurate stories about ourselves.
Some would say we need to address our beliefs, and that beliefs influence our behavior. This is true, but it doesn’t go deep enough. Stories are deeper than beliefs. They emerge out of life experiences that mark us indelibly. We don’t think and act out of propositions (beliefs), but fundamentally out of defining stories.
Ever watch the Biggest Loser reality show? Notice how much time they spend digging for such defining stories? Most of the time the participants are not consciously aware of them; but they are there, influencing their decisions to overeat and remain sedentary. And when they are finally realized, it is often with many tears and deep impact.
I’m on a physical health journey myself and have attempted to explore my defining stories in this area. As I paid attention I was amazed at how many stories I tell myself – mostly when I make bad decisions. Stories like “This is just genetic. I’ll always be overweight.” As with the most powerful false narratives, there is always an element of truth in them. That’s what makes them so deceiving. But it is a false narrative nonetheless. The true narrative is that God is making all things new, including my physical body. If God can raise Jesus from the dead then surely he can empower me to arrive at a healthier place physically.
One of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to us is to bring these stories into our awareness. That is 90% of the work, and God will do the heavy lifting if we’ll let him. “The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being ” (Proverbs 20:27).
What area of your life are you working on right now? What defining stories are you telling yourself that hinder/help your progress?