Two women sitting on a couch having a conversation

Stories We Tell Ourselves

At Collide, we believe that God uses ordinary women to do amazing things. He meets us exactly where we’re at – in our mess, our pain, our joy, and our stories. We’ve been amazed at how He redeems our brokenness and empowers women in our community and beyond to walk in the confidence of their identity as beloved daughters.

We’d love to introduce you to one of those women, Sue Likkel, who we’ve asked to contribute her voice, her story and her wisdom to the Collide blog.

When our second son married his beautiful bride, the night was all we’d hoped it would be: the venue, food, weather, and people… all combined to make the evening one to remember. We go into events like this hoping for a picture-perfect time while realizing that nothing’s perfect and things happen. However, this wedding truly hit the mark. Almost.

After the tables and lights were taken down and the extra food stowed away, the rest of our immediate family sat around the table reminiscing. Then this story came up: during the reception, Grandpa noticed the dessert table and was concerned that no one was partaking. My husband was the MC and he knew the order of the evening and the exact time the cake would arrive, but it wasn’t yet. Well-intentioned Grandpa assumed the MC had overlooked this detail and encouraged someone to grab the mic and announce it was time for dessert. You can guess what happened: people flocked to the table, the bride and groom were confused, the MC ran over and tried to reverse course, but the couple didn’t get their cake-cutting time like they’d hoped. Sigh.

In the grand scheme of the night, this was minor, and was literally the only flaw. As the story was rehashed at the table that night, I interrupted them and told them to stop telling the story. We all knew what happened and if we repeated it, THAT is the story that would be remembered, not the other noteworthy anecdotes. Let’s repeat all the GOOD things like the flower girl recognizing her dad halfway down the aisle and running to his arms, or the groom’s sister’s singing, the food (oh it was good!), the ideal temperature, and the bride’s highly capable family who had everything needed to set up, decorate, and tear down like experts.

As time goes on, family stories get repeated but so many get lost along the way. Obviously, we can’t recall them all, but we can choose which to say again and again. Stories we should be telling because they’re positive or encouraging or inspiring can too often take a back seat to those stories that lean negative or frustrating. Stories stick. That’s why they’re in sermons, in verbal illustrations, in songs.

Notice how easily we can shape another’s point of view by simply telling a story about someone. You can choose to tell about when the aunt generously gave her time or the occasion when she was cranky. You can choose to tell about an uncle’s work ethic or the way he liked to receive more than give. Those listening will see that person through a different lens, depending on the story you retell. 

Sometimes those stories that stick capture a person at an unflattering time. We all have those. People change; therefore, our stories need to change too. I cringingly remember things I’ve said to an audience and pray they forget! The adult me wouldn’t say that, as my understanding has broadened. I can only hope that that story isn’t repeated, using it as a hallmark of who I am. Now my self-appointed task is to re-think what I say about people. What do I share with others who don’t know them? Is it flattering? Complimentary? Kind?

Educators, advertisers and parents know that one sure way to get an idea to stick is to repeat, repeat, repeat. My husband and I chose to use that to our advantage when our kids were growing up, purposely repeating words that we wanted to sink in and become truth. About their siblings: “That’s your best friend,” or, “Isn’t he helpful?” About their teachers: “They’re so creative. We’re so blessed to have her.” About their dad: “He loves you so much. He prays over you after you fall asleep.”

Those repeated lines become the foundations of their understanding about a person. I certainly did not get it right and I need to self-check more often than I care to admit, but it’s an excellent goal and I’ve found a more peaceful outlook as a byproduct. Though we don’t want to ignore reality, we can reinforce the positive and put people in a positive light, one to which they’ll often rise.

Why does this matter? Well, for many reasons, including that we’re all God’s image bearers and Jesus calls us to love. A difficult verse for many is when Jesus challenges His followers in that loving the lovable is not so laudable; it’s loving those that are hard to love – there’s the challenge. Luke 6:32 says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Applied here, if you only tell glowing stories of those you love, that’s expected. How do you speak about those that strain your love muscle? It takes effort, no doubt. Yet, when we choose to incline our hearts towards the positive, seeing that gem of goodness in another, it’s that much easier. 

I’d like to challenge you to intentionally listen to which stories you tell and how you frame the people within them. Might our stories be equivalent to the “godless myths and old wives’ tales” mentioned in I Timothy? Whether they are or are not, we can “train ourselves to be godly.” There’s nothing wrong with putting some effort in this direction, for others are listening. I’m confident that if you devote yourself in this way, others will reflect you and in so doing, reflect our Savior. 

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