Cautionary tales, uplifting metaphors, adventure stories, epic battles. Good vs. evil. Right vs. wrong. Heroes winning the day. Damsels being rescued.
Stories mean something. They are meant to teach and to spread a world view and to be a moral compass. Humans tell stories, because we can make sense of them. Because they make light the things that are dark. Stories tell us we aren’t alone in our struggles. They tell us that others have gone before us and conquered mountains and monsters. Stories are for children. And stories are for adults. Stories are for mothers and sons. For us and for them.
Sometimes stories tell us lies. Not all stories give light. Not all stories bring teaching and understanding. Some stories teach us to fear what is different from us. They tell us to be angry with others. Often these stories aren’t the ones in books. We tell these stories. Our neighbours tell these stories. The newspapers love to print these stories. Do you know the immeasurable power of stories? Did you know that you can shape the stories of your life. You can choose what stories you will tell yourself about life, about other people and about those who are different from you. You can learn to love and to have compassion by teaching yourself how to tell different stories.
If you are driving in your car and someone cuts you off or jumps the light you might tell yourself that person is a jerk. You could say to yourself that they are a no good, foolish, so and so. You would huff and puff and build this story into an epic tale of being wronged on the road. That’s all well and fine, it’s not like these stories are hurting anyone, right? But it does matter doesn’t it? You carry the aggravation of that story with you through your day, don’t you? Don’t you add it to the book of stories of why this city stinks or how your neighbours are just no good?
Would it make a difference if you changed the narrative? How would your experience change if you were to tell the story of a mother who is late picking up her kids from day-care. Or a grandfather who isn’t quite sure of himself on the road anymore. If you gave a human face to the monster behind that steering wheel would it make a difference? Would you wave them in, or feel empathy for their panic or confusion? What if you put yourself behind that wheel? Have you ever cut someone off? Were your intentions sinister when you jumped into the lane?
It’s sobering to peel back the caricatures we draw of other people and place our own face there. Or to place the face of our mom or our granddad there.
The casting decisions we make when we tell stories can change everything. Stories have tremendous power.