Storytelling Is Truth Telling

I’ve been exploring all the ways that capturing and sharing life stories can be used to impact our world. A very important use of story is found in creating awareness and support for causes. In my work for a local domestic violence agency, I experienced first-hand the power of true stories to deepen awareness of the reality and pain of violent behaviors in committed relationships. My role with the agency was two-fold — talking to kids in public schools about healthy relationships and creating public awareness.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I can give you these facts:

20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States – more than 10 million women and men a year.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

Or, I can tell you a story about how violence in the home impacts children:

“Are you mean?”

It’s not a question I’m asked often, so when the little girl with the cynical blue eyes asked, I knew I’d better give a straight answer.

“I don’t think so.”

“Are you nice? Are you nice to your kids? Do you ever smack their bottoms?”

I told her that I try to be nice to my four boys, but that sometimes moms and dads get angry and they do things and say things they regret. I hoped it was the answer she needed to hear.

As their mom carried on an emotional conversation with their dad on an office phone, eight-year-old Blue Eyes and her little sister sat close by. I could tell that they were taking it all in, and taking on their mom’s pain…...more

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I recently became aware of  Vanessa Chase Lockshin and her organization, The Storytelling Non-Profit. Lockshin provides online training, coaching and consulting for non-profit organizations who wish to use story to expand their monetary support and create awareness. In Lockshin’s words:

As I continue to do this storytelling work, I naturally spend a lot of time thinking about the role of storytelling in our lives. When I think about the current political landscape (in the US), I can’t help but observe that storytelling is a form of truth telling for social justice organizations. And truth telling, in this context, serves the purpose of helping people understand experiences that are different from their own. In many ways, this is the purpose of storytelling outside social justice work, too.

There are many reasons we need truth telling in our societies and cultures. In the context of the work that many non-profits are doing, truth telling is a way to share injustices and start to work towards rectifying those injustices. Storytelling is a way to shine a light on issues and experiences some people might not be aware of. It gives others a glimpse of another perspective. The step beyond that is using storytelling to catalyze support for your organization’s approach to solving that problem. Without storytelling and truth telling, I often wonder what shape some of the major social moments of the 20th century would have taken……more

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An agency I’ve watched closely over the past several years exhibits deep respect for the power of our life stories. Thistle Farms is a global agency based in Nashville, Tennessee, whose mission is “to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.” Trish, a former resident of Thistle Farms’ Magdalene residential program, recently shared her story on the agency’s website:

I had a rough start to life, with drug use and sexual abuse beginning at one.  By the time I was seventeen, I dropped out of school, got married to a very abusive man, and was on the wrong path. I went from a real estate career to stripping. Stripping became special favors and those special favors for clients turned into full out prostitution.

After being arrested, I asked the judge to put me in jail, because I knew if I didn’t stop the use and abuse, I would die. The judge recommended the Thistle Farms Residential Program, Magdalene. My case manager explained the program and that I would be taken care of for two years; at that point in time, I couldn’t even stay clean an entire day……more

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The truth in our stories can break barriers and build community. Click To Tweet

When we give voice to our stories, we’re not only preserving a slice of our lives, we’re extending a hand to another who needs to hear and know they are not alone. We’re inviting them to let our lives touch theirs. We were created for relationship. The truth in our stories can break barriers and build community.

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Life stories knit us together, whether to family or to others who just need to know they are not alone. In these 31 days of October, I’ll be exploring the importance of STORY. You can read all 31 days by following the links under “31 Days of Story”. And, you can read blogs from other writers taking the #Write31Days challenge by visiting the website here.

Tomorrow: Scripture Commands Us To Tell

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