The first words I heard when I woke up Sunday morning were these: “When we share our personal stories, we’re able to keep kids off drugs and alcohol.” That caught my attention immediately – not the drugs and alcohol part, but the “personal stories” part.

The alarm on my clock-radio had gone off in the middle of what was obviously an interview with someone from a mentoring or support program. I would have liked to listen to more of it, but I needed to get up and get ready for Mass. So I turned off the alarm and went to take my shower.

I was running a bit late that morning, and the Opening Hymn had already started as I walked into the church. I smiled, hearing voices young and old singing, “All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.”

“Appropriate,” I thought. “Very appropriate.”

The reason all of these words registered so strongly with me is that I had just spent the previous day co-presenting a workshop about finding the power in our own personal stories, and about how our stories have the power to heal, to inspire, and to strengthen ourselves and others.

I’ve known this for a long time, and have seen over and over again that it is not just our accomplishments, but the journey on our way to those accomplishments that gives us our strength and wisdom, our experience and credibility. And the farther we have had to come, or the more we have had to overcome, the greater the impact we can have in the world – and the more power we have to inspire and influence others, and to make a difference in their lives.

Too often, too many of us think that sharing our stories – especially the mistakes, the vulnerabilities, or the failures in our background or upbringing – will reveal our flaws and our weaknesses, and expose the chink in our armor that other people can exploit and use against us. Sadly, this is a legitimate concern. There are many people in the world who believe that the best – or only – way to build themselves up is to put others down, and they look for every opportunity to do so. I wish I could promise that that would never happen to you, but I can’t. I can, however, promise that sharing your story – in a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment – can give you strength and power beyond belief. I’ve seen it happen time and again in others, and I’ve experienced it myself,  often in unexpected ways.

So – what’s your story? Whatever course your life has taken, there are others who need to hear what you have to say, and who will welcome you – and your story – with open arms. The lessons and experiences you have acquired have given you strength you may not even be aware that you possess. And they’ve given you the power not only to make an enormous difference in the world, but to change lives.

Starting with your own.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on November 13, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

In what ways has sharing your personal story helped others — or yourself? I’d love to hear about it!
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