Check Your Story (at the door)
I love telling stories. Stories connect us to a time and place, a memory, to one another. But lately, I find myself telling stories that aren’t mine to tell. I have played it off as a form of caring and sharing with those I love, but at the core, it’s akin to gossip.
Gossip is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people.” So when I’m talking to a friend and begin giving a “report” of someone else’s story—a situation they’ve shared with me, something they’re going through—is this not just a form of gossip?
I often find myself bearing the weight of other people’s burdens deeply and heavily as if they’re my own to carry. So when I share what one friend is going through with another, it’s not malicious or meant to harm. Rather, it’s an attempt to connect or share the load, to process and to convey care for what they’re going through.
Check Your Motive
But here’s what I’ve been asking myself lately as the Spirit has prompted me to evaluate what’s at the root of this tendency to share others’ stories.
Am I praying about this situation as much as I’m sharing about it? If I truly care about this friend, I need to lay their story down at the foot of the cross. I need to lift up their burden or experience or request to Jesus, not to another sister. If it’s weighing on my heart, I need to surrender it first to the Lord.
Would I be sharing these details on behalf of my friend if she was sitting across from me? Often, the answer is no. I would let her tell her own story if she felt safe and willing, but I wouldn’t share it for her. So why would I betray that confidence when she isn’t present? Would she feel like she could no longer share burdens or stories with me if she knew I was telling them to others, even in the spirit of concern? I don’t want to break or betray a confidence for any reason. I should protect any stories that are shared with respect and trust that cannot be so easily discarded.
Are there better ways to connect with this friend than sharing someone else’s story in return? If I have not been through anything similar, but if I know a friend has, then I start to share her experience in an effort to empathize. But instead, I could ask questions. I could lean in and really dig deeper into what my friend is sharing instead of just sharing a similar experience in return.
Check Your Heart
We often feel that we have to tell a “me too” story in order to relate to someone. Instead, what if we just listened, asked questions, and truly cared about the intricacies and details of what our friend was sharing? What if, instead of thinking about what to say next, we just practiced presence and the power of undivided attention? I believe our friends might just feel more seen, known, and loved with our full attention than with another well-meaning story.
Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been sharing others’ stories without meaning to betray or harm their trust. I want to encourage you to pause and pray about it today. What’s at the root of those conversations? Do you like being the one who knows all the details? Does it make you feel important to be “in the know” and share on behalf of someone else? Would you want someone to share those details about you if the tables were turned?
If you feel any uncertainty about whether or not you should be sharing, pause and pray. If you truly feel like there is a purpose in sharing someone’s story, ask for permission. Text that friend and say, “Hey, do you mind if I share this part of your story to encourage another sister?” If she says yes, be wise and trustworthy, only sharing what is necessary.
Otherwise, protect those details in your heart and shift your focus back to the friend in front of you. Lean in and listen closely. Give her your full attention and care with love and trust that can’t be easily broken. Let the stories that aren’t yours be kept safe among you, and create your own stories by being present and prayerful.