Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking on the power of embracing our story. What does it mean to embrace our story? What are the obstacles we face in trying to embrace our story? Embracing your story means that you understand how the twists and turns, the expected and unexpected, the good and the bad work together to create your unique purpose and life direction. To embrace your story, you have to face your story. Facing your story means dealing with the tough parts rather than trying to deny or ignore them.
But what if you don’t want to deal with the past? What if you don’t know how to deal with the past? How do you make sense of the past when there have been so many ups and downs?
How do we wrap our minds around this thing called life that can be so breathtakingly beautiful and heart wrenchingly painful?
I think this dilemma is one of the biggest obstacles we face in embracing our story. We run from the past because we don’t know how to reconcile the good and bad. We don’t know how to hold onto the good and still call out and address the bad.
Maybe most of your story is really good- good friends, good life experiences, good memories- but there are a couple of chapters, or maybe even some characters, that have been really difficult. These chapters or characters have created some true hurt in your life. You don’t know how to include them in your story because you feel if you spend time talking about those painful scenes then you are discounting, or aren’t grateful for, all the good in your life. And so you ignore or deny the impact of the chaotic home life, the addicted loved one, or the neglectful parent because you simply do not know how to reconcile the good and the bad.
Or maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum. Life has been very hard. From start to present, life has been one challenge after another. And because life has beaten you up so, it is hard to hold on to the good. It is hard to let yourself feel excitement and joy. It is hard to believe that joy and good things really do, and will, happen to you. So you live ever protective of your battered heart, constantly preparing for the worst and never letting yourself rest in joy. It’s the same problem. You don’t know how to reconcile the good and the bad. You don’t know how to hold them both.
The challenge in life is learning to accept the good and bad and give them each the credit they are due and the healing they deserve. We must learn to hold the prickly and the smooth parts of life. We must learn that sometimes life is like holding two gumballs.
This gumball is smooth, full of color, and if you bit into it, it would be sweet.
This gumball is prickly and lackluster in color.
Both are round. Both are gumballs. But they are very different experiences. The sweetness of the one gumball does not cancel out the prickliness of the other.
Life is colorful and smooth and sometimes very sweet. Life is also prickly and dark and a pain to deal with.
Sometimes, out of self-protection, we want our lives to be either all good or all bad because the back and forth, up and down can feel exhausting. We want to know what we can count on because we want to feel in control of our fate. So we decide that life is going to be all good, and we force a smile to hide any bad. Or we decided that life is going to be all bad, and we lash out or reject anything that tries to convince us otherwise.
We struggle to embrace our stories when we want them to always make sense, follow a pattern, and not have any unexpected plot developments. We struggle to embrace our story when we only want to hold onto one gumball.
The challenge is to learn to hold them both.
The painful and difficult and negative events of your life do not cancel out all the good in your life. Equally, the good in your life does not wash over and erase the hurts, abuse, or loss you have experienced. Just because you’ve tasted the sweetness of life, does not mean you can’t still call out the bad. Just because you know the prickliness of life, does not mean that is all there is to life.
It takes courage to have joy and hope, and it takes courage to grieve. It takes courage to hold both gumballs. Embracing your story means you accept the hard, prickly incidences just as you accept the sweet, colorful ones. You accept that both experiences contribute to your unique story and life calling. You learn to hold them both.
Do you struggle to reconcile the good and bad in your story? Does it ever feel like the bad overshadows the good in your life? Do you stay quiet about the dark moments because you are afraid they will tarnish the bright ones? Take the courageous step and start giving voice to all the parts of your unique and powerful story.