If you hang around with me long enough, you’ll learn that I am a bit of a story-teller and that I love to hear other people’s stories. It’s probably why I love good movies that get into a person’s character. I love to hear how someone got to where they are; for me it’s both a way to connect with people (even if they are just imaginary comic book characters) and to get a better, bigger picture of human beings and the world in which we live.
Mind you, I realize that maybe I don’t give as much as I get. In conversations I’m usually the first one to ask “what do you like to do?” or “how did you get from where you were to where you are?”. I am not, however, likely to initiate my own story, or even give you a lot of room to ask for it. Yes, I know, I have issues…
As much as I like hearing people tell their personal story and explore their journey I am not a big fan of the second-hand story. If, in the course of our discourse I ask someone to tell me about another person, it’s a very carefully expressed request. It’s not a “tell me all the dirt” question; I’m looking for information about how that person connects to the stories we’re telling each other or perhaps even living out together through our common interests.
It is a very fine line that I tread gently, if not always successfully. If, in the course of telling someone my story, I get asked about one of the people that populate it, I offer enough information to fill in the necessary blanks, and no more. Or, if I’ve been hurt by someone, I might share what happened to the appropriate listening ear in order to get guidance on how to proceed towards healing, fixing and forgiveness. And it’s the same the other way ‘round. There are moments in telling our stories that other characters make an appearance and we need to explain how and why they fit in.
Where I draw the line, however, is in hearing or sharing second hand stories out of context. I try to be very careful about how I talk about others, and I am conscious how easily a seemingly polite or innocent start of a story can quickly lead into an opinion-fest that is neither kind nor healthy. Some folks, however, have a hard time respecting that line; some just hop over it with great glee and delight in order to share a piece of juicy gossip or a tidbit of a racy story.
We all have stories to tell. And we all have ears to hear the stories of the people we meet. And sometimes those stories involve second or third parties whose roles need explanation and a little bit of added story-telling. We are not, however, called to tell the stories of others when they are more gossip than information. Sometimes silence is a virtue and a juicy tidbit is best left unshared. That’s my story for today…