She was crying on the phone when she told me. The conversation had started with, “I really need to talk to someone… I’ve never told this to anyone before”. That’s when I learned that, as a child, my friend was sexually abused in the most terrible of circumstances. You wouldn’t know it from looking at her, but the emotional scars ran deep. She suffered from fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, and severe problems with trusting others.
“Josh, I got my girlfriend pregnant…” a different friend told me one afternoon at church. “I don’t know what to do, I haven’t told my family yet”. He was obviously scared. He didn’t know who to go to, and he was already facing scrutiny and humiliation in his own mind.
Shift scenes: I’m racing down the highway. I have no idea what the scene will be when I get to my destination. All I know is that I just heard that one of my childhood friends was about to commit suicide. Through a miracle, he reconsidered, and I spent the remainder of my evening with him as we talked through life, despair, and the feelings of vast emptiness.
Years later, a young man I knew met with me and spilled out his frustrations and distraught. He was using drugs again. He was spinning out of control and was afraid that he would harm himself, or others…
Sound familiar? We all know people with these stories, maybe we have some of them ourselves. What do all of these have in common though? They are all real experiences that happened with people that I know. These individuals ended up overcoming the problems, the difficulties, and the pain. They moved forward.
Why do we find ourselves crying during human interest movies, or reposting some inspirational story about overcoming obstacles, or tweeting a YouTube link about a remarkable person who was able to bounce back against all odds? It is because their story affects us. It motivates us. It can change us.
I was recently questioned with the thought: “what do I have to offer”? Maybe you’re not good at sports, you’ll never be a doctor, and you can’t public speak very well. Perhaps you’re not very good in school, or you had a rough upbringing, or you’re from an area where you think you’ll never be able to succeed very far. Maybe your past is filled with tragedy, guilt, or fear. What do you now have to offer?
Each of the individuals who shared with me their struggles and experiences above have this to offer: wisdom, empathy, compassion. And you do too. What is your story? Is it heartbreak? Is it sadness? Is it a mishap? Do you look back on life and think “I’m a broken person, I have nothing to offer”? I’m here to tell you that you are wrong.
There is nothing more powerful than sharing your story with someone who is going through the same or a similar situation. You may not know how much your story could positively affect the lives of another person. So when you look around you and see that person crying, you see signs similar to your situation, or someone calls you asking for help: you know what to do.
Never feel broken. Never feel useless. What do you have to offer? Your story.