Last week I went for a psych interview as part of the accreditation process for Baptist pastors. Yeah – I’m a little late to the party – only 28 years or so…
The psychologist running the interview asked me to tell them some of my life story. It was a vocationally oriented conversation so I tried to focus on those aspects of my journey.
What I had to say took 20 minutes of the hour we had together and initially I felt like it was a little bit of a time waste. I told him as much ‘I could have written all this stuff down and you could have skimmed it before I arrived’ I helpfully suggested. Not sure if he appreciated my wonderful insight…
But as I drove off I remembered again that in simply telling a story of 28 years in ministry I had both included information as well as left out information. I had got excited at points and in other places was matter of fact.
We never ‘just tell a story’. What we say tells a story. What we don’t say tells a story. The way we tell a story tells a story.
I remembered leading a men’s group and asking a new member to share his ‘story’ with us. I intentionally left the scope wide open and what happened was that in the 5 minutes he had, he spoke of his achievements in ministry, and of the heights he had reached. All I heard was ‘I am important. You should regard me highly.’
Not surprisingly I didn’t…
The choice of information he omitted in that 5 minute précis communicated as much about who he was as anything he may have said. There was nothing of family, nothing about passions or interests, nothing personal – it was really just a highlight reel of his CV.
If you’re in the practice of leading groups just ask each person in the group to share some of their journey. Then ask the group what they ‘heard’, and remind them to ‘listen’ for the things that are unsaid.
Sometimes it may be that information omitted is irrelevant, sometimes it’s an oversight – but sometimes it’s also an insight into the person.
The way we narrate our story actually tells a story in itself. So as I sat there asking ‘is this really a good use of time?’ my mind flashed back to occasions when I have asked similar questions.
Maybe it’s actually about your story.
Maybe it’s about the way you tell it.
Maybe it’s about the information you choose to leave out.
Or more likely it’s all of the above.
Everything tells a story – even when we think we aren’t telling a story