“When we…own our story, we gain access to our worthiness….When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness…lives inside of our story.” The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene’ Brown
Embedded within every woman’s story is the story of a little girl. The voice of that child is powerful, and can drown out the more mature and accurate voice of the grown-up woman the little girl becomes.
In the next four Listening on the Journey posts, my friend, Bethany (a pseudonym), will tell her story. Bethany is one of the most resilient women I’ve met. Her ‘little girl’ story—a story filled with abuse and betrayal—is one with which she struggles on a regular basis. But, Bethany has determined to walk into her story rather than trying to outrun or ignore the past pain and shame that threatens to keep her from embracing this truth:
She is a lovable, significant and worthwhile woman!
Rather than distancing herself from the danger in her childhood story, my friend is choosing to rescue the ‘little girl’ in much the same way a brave bystander is willing to rush into a river to save a drowning child. Sure, there’s risk in this decision, but in doing so, Bethany seizes the opportunity to transform a potentially tragic tale in a way that benefits not only her destiny, her family’s future and ultimately, her legacy, but will benefit others with similar stories.
Thank you, Bethany, for your willingness to share your story with Listening on the Journey readers.
Ready to Disclose
Bethany’s ‘little-girl’ Story (Part 1):
As long as I can remember, I have been interested in people’s stories. Everyone has one, and everyone’s story is unique. Some people experience more joy than sorrow. Some people endure more abuse than kindness. I used to think this was unfair.
But, as I’ve learned to embrace my story, I’ve realized if I allow the hard and unfair life experiences to shape me into who God created me to be, I can live a life filled with richness and joy—perhaps even more than if my childhood years had known more kindness and justice.
As much as I’ve always been interested in people’s stories, I’ve always had a desire to share my own. Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Walking around with the burden of an untold story can turn a woman into someone she was never meant to be. So, as part of my healing, I’m going to share my story publicly for the first time.
It is well for the little girl inside our story to consider the best way to disclose.
At church I kept hearing about the Grace of God. I had grown up with an angry God who couldn’t wait to punish me. Grace was hard for me to wrap my head around.
I can’t say there was one huge incident that made me seek help. I think I simply came to a place where I was so tired of who I was that I had to find a way to change. One night after I put my kids to bed, I decided I had finally had enough.
There was a woman at our church who always captivated me when she spoke. Her relationship with God seemed so real. When she talked about Him, it sounded like she was talking about a friend. I sent her an email that night asking if we could meet.
I didn’t even know what I was going to say. I was terrified. The day of our meeting, I was a mess. I thought about canceling so many times, but staying stuck where I was seemed worse than finally being real with someone.
I ended up telling her everything! (to be continued…)
Sue’s insights concerning disclosure:
Like Maya Angelou said so eloquently, bearing an untold story inside is agonizing. Exposing a story that’s been hidden in dark recesses of our heart to the light of truth is the beginning of healing and liberation. The way in which we disclose the treasure that’s our story, however, is critical and deserves careful consideration. That ‘little girl’ in our story has the potential for enormous strength, but after being kept in the dark for so long, she is fragile. She needs time and loving help to grow strong.
I’m not a mental health professional or expert in childhood abuse, but I believe the following points deserve consideration before disclosing a painful childhood story.
Listen to that voice inside that says, “Okay! Enough is enough!” – This Scripture refers to the children of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, but the message is one worth remembering: “Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear…” (Hebrews 3:7 & 8b MSG). Even if you need to use some stern self-talk, don’t allow your ‘big-girl’ voice to dismiss or minimize your ‘little-girl’ story.
- Choose carefully to whom you disclose and how much you disclose – Jesus told his friends: “Don’t give holy things to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before pigs. Pigs will only trample on them, and dogs will turn to attack you.” (Matthew 7:6 NCV). Sometimes we assume a certain person can be trusted, but women have been left feeling betrayed by family, friends and even clergy, who were not equipped to deal with their story or were not trustworthy with their story.
- Pray for wisdom before disclosure! – I have never been disappointed when I’ve asked God for wisdom. James 1:5 is a verse I’ve turned to over and over again. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NLT)
- Trust the ‘still small voice’ of God’s Spirit that speaks to your spirit – After you’ve asked God for wisdom, watch and listen. If you feel an ‘interior nudge’ to trust, take even a baby step of trust. If you feel a ‘check in your spirit,’ hold off. A little motto that helps me make a decision is, ‘When in doubt, DON’T—at least not right now!’
Next time, Bethany will tell some of the painful details of her story, and we’ll explore: ‘My Story’s Sadness – an Obstacle Too-big?’
May you be filled with grace and wisdom as you ponder your ‘little-girl’ story…