“People don’t want to tell you that,” my husband said to me following a conversation I’d had with a newcomer to our church.
“People like to talk about themselves,” I replied. “Problem is no one asks them questions and they don’t know what to say.”
I was either born to interview people or I’m just plain nosey. I haven’t decided which but many times when I do an interview with someone, they tell me things that they wouldn’t tell anyone else. It’s because I’m asking them to talk about themselves and people rarely get an audience to do that. I learned a long time ago, when I was publishing a Christian newspaper that I don’t tell everything in an article. Good News Journal had 100,000 circulation. Sometimes those I interviewed didn’t realize the wide readership.
We distributed to many churches in Columbia, Jefferson City, Fulton, Boonville, Moberly, Fayette, Centralia, Mexico, even sometimes as far as Macon and Kirksville. We inserted in daily newspapers. If I put everything people told me in the articles I published, I would have been in deep trouble. I printed the things that were relevant to our readership, the good things.
I tried to follow Paul’s advice. He tells us to think about the things that are “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” He says if we do that God “will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Phil 4:8-9, The Message).
I love that image of being worked into a harmony, almost like God has written a part just for me. I’m not that great a singer but I did sing in the choir, back when churches still had choirs. I think I sing somewhere between alto and tenor. Maybe I’m a second alto but those parts are hard to hear and stay on pitch while everyone else is singing other parts. It was only when the choir director stopped everything and worked directly with the two or three second altos that I could hear the part and then sing it and blend with the other parts.
My point is sometimes we have to sing out about who we are and allow our lives to harmonize with those around us. Sometimes we have to share who we are in an authentic way and trust others to only publish the best and not the worst. A word of caution when sharing your stuff, though, make sure you get a chance to read and censor before it is published.
Rarely, though, did I have people change the stories I wrote. I wrote what I heard them say, the meaning behind the words. It might not have always been word for word but it was heart for heart. When I wrote down the actual words they said, that’s when they wanted changes in the story. Kind of like when someone repeats something you said out of context. It can have an entirely different meaning.
The truth is not only the words we say but the feeling behind the words. A good writer will capture those as well. It might be by adding information about what the person does for a living, what type of home they live in, the ages of their children, even their pets. All that gives information to who that person is rather than just what words have come out of their mouths.
If someone were to write a story about your life, what would it say? What are the things that make you, you? How are you living your story today? What adjustments might you make to make your story more “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious?” How does your story harmonize with those around you?
What do you sing in your life story? I’d love to know and contrary to what my sweet husband says I know you want to tell me and those around you. So live your story with energy and life so that the world around you will know, you are alive. You matter. You care. You love. You make the song better. You make harmony.
“Write the vision. Make it plain so that those who read it, may run with it.”
©2010 Teresa Parker