If you’ve been around here recently, you may have been part of discussions we’ve been having around sharing our own personal stories and listening to those of others. The one thing we seem to be united on is that stories help – both the sharer and the listener.
This week I caught up with Linda, founder of The She Is Project, a platform where women all over the world share their stories. Today she has graciously unpacked and simplified the process of sharing our stories and encouraging others when they share theirs.
“I felt utterly alone”, Linda says of the moment she entered a popular women’s conference. “No one had saved me a seat; there were no smiles of recognition as my gaze connected with other women in the crowd. I was there on my own.”
Having made the last minute decision to attend the conference, Linda had recently returned to Australia after living 10 years abroad, “in part because our seven-year old son was being treated for an aggressive form of leukaemia at the nearby children’s hospital. Jacob had been given a rare and precious break from chemotherapy and was at home being cared for by his dad. This provided me with the opportunity for a bit of ‘me time’, yet the first session hadn’t even begun and I was already regretting my decision. I was overwhelmed and feeling very sorry for myself.”
A chance encounter with Jean turned everything around. “Jean’s eyes were red, her cheeks tear stained and, as she clasped my hand with her own, I felt her tremble. She was at least 70 and told me that she too was here on her own. She had almost not come. She was still fragile after the death of her husband of 50 years, only six weeks ago. And then this sweet, grieving woman asked me, ‘How are you doing, dear’? In the few precious minutes that followed, I shared just a little of my story with her. And so, a grieving widow and an anxious mother of a desperately sick child reminded each other that no matter how alone we might have felt, we were actually not alone after all.”
“It was then that I sensed the Holy Spirit nudge me ever so gently, ‘You’re never the only one’ he said. ‘This auditorium is filled with women just like you and Jean, and they all have their own story to share, if someone will take the time to listen.’”
“As those words penetrated my heart, I began to look at the auditorium differently. Instead of seeing a crowd of confident, connected, ‘got it all together’ women who intimidated me, I began to see them for who they really were; uniquely beautiful, nervously expectant and extremely precious individuals who were probably a lot more like me than I realised. God gave me a glimpse of what I think He sees when He looks at us. Not a label or stereotype in sight but rather a powerful gathering of living, breathing stories of grace.”
Should I share my story?
“It takes courage to share your story,” Linda says. “It’s something that should be handled with wisdom and sensitivity. In my observation, our stories are best shared progressively. Unless there has been a lot of counselling/therapy type work beforehand, most people are processing their story as they share it. Our stories are precious, and particularly in the early vulnerable stages of sharing they should only be shared with people that you trust &/or know are capable of stewarding your story with grace. For example, how we disclose a story of trauma is vastly different to how we may share a humorous story about facing our fear of public speaking.”
How can I support and hear my friend?
“Listening with empathy and attentiveness is incredibly powerful,” Linda says. “Most people aren’t used to someone giving them their undivided attention so when it happens people can initially feel a little overwhelmed.”
How has The She Is Project impacted you?
“I find it incredibly fulfilling when someone realises the power of their own experience and the significance of the journey they have been on. Its not unusual for women to dismiss the progress they have made or the obstacles that they have overcome as being ‘no big deal’. When they look at their own life with a renewed sense of perspective they are empowered to not just keep going but to share the wisdom they have gained along the way.”
Most importantly, I love that moment when a woman recognises that God’s grace has been with them all the way. The realisation that God’s grace embraces our anger, doubt, disappointment, confusion and fear and redeems it into something beautiful is profound.”
Read some of Linda’s story here and here, over on The She Is Project. And if you decide it’s time to share your story, why not send in a submission and make sure you let me know; let’s share and read together, supporting each other in this crazy life!
Have a great week!