I deliberately steer clear of writing about what I hear in church on a Sunday. I figure if you want a sermon, you can follow somebody else’s blog. But one Sunday night, an 18 year old woman told her story with a quiet authority that demonstrated an unequivocal truth. If you can tell your story in a way that inspires others, you own your story instead of your story owning you.
This young woman spoke of a life filled with tragedy. She cried as she talked of growing up in institutions, of pretending to be strong and then waking up at night to cry, of wanting nothing more than a place to belong. She spoke of praying to a God that she didn’t even know, asking him for somewhere to belong, somewhere to be loved. And then she told of moving to a house where she was accepted, where she was loved, where people believed in her. So when she said “My life has a purpose. Even me, even my life,” people listened. She spoke from a place of tragedy and brokenness, of a life of hope, and purpose and love. And people listened, and believed in a hope for their lives too. Because her authority came from her story.
I wrote about post-natal depression (PND) earlier this week. That was my own attempt to tell my story in a way that would benefit others. It’s an illness covered in shame. You have PND, you recover, and you try to pretend it never happened. It’s not a topic for public conversation. The feedback I received reinforced for me the importance of telling that part of my story. Because if I can lift my head and tell you I survived PND, that I am a survivor not a victim, then maybe you can start to tell that part of your story in those terms too.
Too often we are shamed by things that we have no control over. Too often we shame others for things that they have no control over. While society may choose to condemn or shame us for being different, or sad, or inappropriate, or loud, or quiet, or creative, or conservative, or happy*, or any other reason, we always have a choice in how we respond to that treatment. We can’t always fight back, but we can choose not to wear that shame. We can choose to stand, and keep standing, until there are so many of us standing, that the shame is cowering in a corner.
Would you choose to stand with the ones that society would shame?
*I took that list from things that people have told me off for. Yes, I got into trouble for being too happy.