I have always loved stories. As a child, I spent hours reading, devouring books. I would lay in my bed, long after lights were supposed to be out and use my flashlight to illuminate the words that would create pictures in my mind. Each character would give me something to think about, something to learn. I found myself examining the plight of each hero, the struggles that created the victims who needed rescuing, and the pain that gave rise to so many villains. And no matter the story, I saw myself in all three—a hero, a victim, and a villain. I longed to be the rescuer, I felt the pain of the oppressed, and could feel the hatred and darkness that led people to do terrible things.
Real life isn’t much different than fiction. The lines that separate us from the characters in our favorite books or movies are thin, We are drawn to them because we see something we want, or something we have in their stories. In our hearts, we are all heroes, victims, and villains in our own ways. We decide to be one of these every single day. In each situation we face, every scenario we encounter, our actions lead us down one of three paths. Sometimes we allow our circumstances to refine us, making us stronger so we can rise up and fight for others just as the heroes do in our favorite stories. Other times we let life beat us down, leaving us feeling weak and defeated and in need of rescue. Or, we allow the hurt we face to jade us, and the wounds we suffer leave holes in our hearts were the darkness creeps in, and we justify selfish behaviors because we swallow the lie that our wants are more important than other’s needs.
As an adult, I still dissect the circumstances that lead people down different paths, but now I am heavily drawn to real stories, especially those that are told by the people who have lived them. Because our experiences are remarkable gifts that we can offer others—our stories have the power to let others know they aren’t alone.
Over the past eighteen months, I have met several people whose lives differ, but all are heroes in their own way—A woman who cares for her ailing father every day, dressing him, helping feed him; a man who has overcome alcoholism and has been reunited with his family; people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and yet are living life to the fullest while they can; a lady whose childhood trauma and life of homelessness is seen as something to overcome as opposed to something that defines who she must be. Each story is one of hope, and yet, all these people are fearful about sharing their journey with others.
Because we can’t be a hero unless we’ve overcome something, and people can’t know what we’ve overcome unless they know our pain—and to share our pain is to be vulnerable.
But it is in the pain where the beauty rests. Because everyone has pain, and everyone needs to know they aren’t alone.
Regardless of what we face—depression, abuse, addictions, loss, struggles of all kinds—there is someone out there longing to hear our story, someone desperate to know they aren’t the only one.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to see themselves in a hero who has overcome the darkness, who has said, “No, I will not remain a victim!”, who refuses to let their pain be a vehicle to perpetuate that same pain in the lives of others.
Sharing your story is one of the most heroic actions you can take because when you do, you are taking someone by the hand and telling them, “You’re not alone.”