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You don't know my story

September 22, 2020 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

The following is adapted from the May 12th, 2015 Pulse of NewLife.

“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

This morning, I was watching a video in which a couple of counselors were teaching a unique way of doing premarital counseling. Their approach was focused on helping a couple understand each other’s stories, so that they might treat each other with more understanding and compassion. As I observed the couple who was being counseled, I immediately noticed that the woman was wearing a lot of makeup and seemed to have given a lot of attention to her looks.

As I followed along with the session, the counselor asked each individual to share a scene from their story that stood out to them as particularly influential in their lives. The woman shared about a scene from health class in elementary school. The teacher had each of the girls get on the scale to be weighed, and the woman shared about how she was the heaviest girl in the class. Later that day, during recess, she asked to get on a merry-go-round with some of the boys. They refused to let her on, and when she said, “But I’m only a girl,” one of them replied, “Yeah, you’re the fattest girl in the class.” The woman proceeded to share how that scene had shaped her life from that point forward, from self-loathing, to eating disorders, to eventually finding healing in Christ that allowed her to minister to other women struggling with body image.

I found that experience to be a poignant reminder of the power of listening to another person’s story, and how it can cause us to react with less judgment and more compassion. My immediate reaction upon seeing this woman was that she had obviously spent a lot of time on her looks, and my snap judgment was to be critical of her because of this observation. But after hearing her story, I understood why she might be so concerned about her appearance. Instead of feeling judgmental towards her, I felt sympathetic, compassionate, and protective.

One of the main reasons the counselor was emphasizing the importance of knowing each other’s stories was that it helps us be a vehicle of healing in the lives of our partner instead of compounding their shame and condemnation. I can imagine how her husband, frustrated at arriving late to another event because his wife took so long in the bathroom getting herself ready, might snap at her, belittle her, and cause her to feel ashamed and unloved. But if he understood the deep wounds she feels over being called the fattest girl in school by her classmates, he could respond with compassion, reminding her of how beautiful she is, and helping her place her self-worth in the opinion of Jesus and even his own perspective, not in the words of third-grade boys who are long gone.

What about you? What are the scenes from your life that stand out the most, the scenes that have helped shape who you are? Who might you share those with, so that they could better understand what makes you the person you have become? And what about the scenes in the life of your significant other, or your parents, or children, or friends? Do you even know what those are? If not, ask them, and take the time to listen, so that you might understand them better, have compassion towards them, and allow God to use you as a vehicle of healing in their lives.

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