Everyone likes a good story, so we tell ourselves stories all the time about our life, other people’s lives, and even God.
Full of villains, heroes, tragedy, hope, or fear, these stories focus on the “what ifs” of our past or future and our current situations.
The dynamic power of stories we tell ourselves shape our daily life for better or worse.
Every day, how and what we communicate and our choices are based on the tale we are telling in our minds and picturing in our imagination. That story may or may not be correct.
Two men, different stories
I ran into two brothers the other day who demonstrated this perfectly.
The younger man had left home with an entitled attitude. In fact, he asked his dad for his inheritance early so he could see the world and enjoy it. After all, he deserved that money, and it would someday be his anyway. So why not get it early?
That tale of entitlement was first a story he told himself in his head. And then he told the story to his father.
So, the dad divided the estate between his boys.
The younger son took off to the big city, spending his inheritance on wine, women, and song. When he ran out of money, he ended up working at a hog farm, longing to eat the slop he fed to the pigs.
Now, the new story he told himself went something like this:
“I’m a failure. Nobody likes me. I’m totally worthless. Everybody hates me. Not even the pigs will share their food with me. Dang it, even my dad’s servants eat better than I do. So I think I’ll head home, and, if Dad even hears me out, maybe he’ll let me be one of his servants as I am not worthy of being called his son.”
When the man gets home, he is surprised by his dad’s response to his confession of dishonoring his father, his unworthiness to be a son, and his request to become a servant.
Dad throws a party—complete with bear hugs, kisses, new clothes, jewelry, and a steak bar-b-que!
This was NOT the story the son had imagined. It did not line up logically with the tale he had been telling himself in his thoughts…
…the story of shame, condemnation, and being a low man on the servant list.
Version 2 of the same story
A short time later, the man’s older brother arrived home after a long day of work in the fields and found a party going on. When he discovers that the party is a welcome home celebration for his younger brother, the older son loses it.
He began telling himself a story in his head:
“My brother is a failure and a disgrace to the family. He spent all his money on prostitutes and wild living. I’ve served my dad for years and never disobeyed ANY of his orders.
Dad’s never even given me a goat to bar-b-que for my friends. yet my worthless brother gets a fatted calf and a huge party.”
It doesn’t take long for the story to spill out of the older brother’s mind and into the face of his dad.
It wasn’t pretty.
The power of stories we tell ourselves
Both men had different stories they were telling themselves about the same event—the father’s reaction to the youngest coming home.
One son foresaw his father’s anger and “I told you so” rhetoric. He hoped his dad would hear his repentant heart and allow him to become a servant as he could no longer be a son. His story was full of regret, shame, and self-condemnation.
The older son told himself that his dad didn’t love him as much as he loved the younger son. His story contained rejection, judgment, and condemnation against his brother and his dad.
Both men had wrong stories.
The right story was the father’s story…
…the story of steadfast love, forgiveness, grace, joy, and redemption.
The power of stories we tell ourselves shapes who we become and what our relationships look like.
Do your thoughts weave tales filled with fear of what might happen, distress over what is happening, or regret or shame concerning the past?
How often do you tell yourself a story like the younger son…the I’m not worthy story combined with self-condemning emotions and thoughts?
Or are you like the older son, who told himself a wrong story about his younger brother? Do your mental reports contain judgment and condemnation against someone who has offended you?
Both sons missed the heart of the Father.
I think the power of stories we tell ourselves depends on how well we know the Lord’s stories.
Especially His stories about us.
(BTW, you can “run” into these two brothers and their father at Luke 15:11-32.)
Now, if you need a little help with adjusting your inner storytelling to match the heartbeat of God, check these out:
The Legacy Lounge – Soul Care for Christian Women Over 50