Handling Our Stories with Grace

As a therapist, I cannot share what a client tells me without written consent. Over the years, this confidentiality has allowed me to hear incredible, unspoken pieces of people’s stories. I know much of why they came was because I was legally “safe.” But, being the person who received that kind of information was always a privilege.

As Thanksgiving approaches, and we will be around dinner tables potentially sharing our opinions, these stories have been on my mind. Stories of babies not raised, devastating addictions, difficult marriages, promiscuous or dangerous years, suicide attempts, records they hope no one ever looks up, jobs lost, people hurt, behaviors they are ashamed of, secrets held, lives once lived…or lives they still do.

Anne Rulo Season Handle Conversations with Grace Stories

What I wanted to share is that people who carry shame don’t always look like it. They look like our next-door neighbor, the person in front of us in the carpool, the uncle across the dinner table, or the friend we made at work. And, they are listening. They are listening for opinions spoken as facts, criticisms of groups or people or behaviors, dislike, or even hatred for “other”, a lack of compassion for choices other than our own. And, they are trying to figure out who they can trust.

I know that receiving vulnerable stories is not everyone’s role. But, what I also know is that statistically, if someone is looking to connect, share, or possibly heal, they usually don’t seek out a professional first—they seek out a friend or family member.

If we want people to come to us with their stories, we have to make ourselves safe receptacles. This does not mean being opinionless, but it does mean being “clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12) so that people know they can come to us and experience love. After all, we are called to give out what we have so lavishly received for our own “stories.”

This holiday season may we remember it is so important to season our conversations with grace. Because we never know whose story is in the room, may we clothe ourselves with compassion and grasp the privilege it is to earn the right to hear someone’s journey.

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