Why Telling Your Story Matters

Jun 26, 2012

“As a bird must sing, it’s your human nature to tell your story.” —Tristine Rainer

“Everyone has a story.”

We hear this phrase often enough it’s nearly cliché.


Because we’re finally embracing its beautiful truth. As we watch others navigate adventure, grief, shock and joy, we see true stories played out all around us. The world is a movie screen, and her people our heroes.

When, years ago, I first discovered I had a story to tell, I burned to tell as many people as possible. Like cash in my kids’ pockets, I felt compelled to spend the currency of my accumulated life experiences. The truth demands revelation! I must share so others know they’re not alone!

After a couple years, however, as I listened to and read the countless stories of others, I realized the pages of my own story were not all that uncommon. Everywhere I turned I found someone with a narrative and a burning passion to deliver it. The more scripts I uncovered, the more my story’s significance—and my passion to tell it—diminished. Does my story really matter? And, if so, why?

Yes, our stories do matter. To varying degrees, perhaps. Delivered in different packages and to diverse audiences, certainly. Your story, though surrounded by a million others, is entirely uncommon because it filters through you, a unique, unmatched creation. To allow the stories of others to diminish the value of your own is like refusing to appreciate the warmth of the sun simply because it shines on so many others.

Tristine Rainer’s Your Life as Story, is one of my chief resources on the crafting of personal narrative. Within the first two-dozen pages, she exposes the many possible reasons why we may choose to write our stories:

  1. You want to see how your life makes a story by setting it down.
  2. You want the catharsis and self-forgiveness of an honest and complete confession.
  3. You are in midlife and want to gain from the life behind you the wisdom to mold the life still before you.
  4. You are nearing the end of your life and wish to understand and share what it has meant.
  5. You want to touch the sacred, to find the eternal form of myth in your own contemporary life.
  6. You are motivated by familial love to leave for your descendants knowledge of who you were and the life you lived.
  7. You are motivated by desire to relieve the loneliness, fear, or ignorance of others who may find themselves in a situation you’ve been through.
  8. You wish to write about your family as a way of ending destructive cycles and creating cohesion based on truth.
  9. You want to relive and relish the best years of your life.
  10. You know that the only thing that death cannot destroy is memory, and you wish to preserve from forgetfulness those you have loved.
  11. You can endure your life only by transforming it into a work of art.
  12. Your way to cope with your troubles is to make yourself and others laugh at them.

These are only a few of reasons she lists, but you can see the breadth of possible applications. Will we publish our stories to the acclaim of thousands? Only a rare few will achieve that goal. Will we share it on a grand stage to a packed arena? Not impossible, but doubtful.

Does sharing your story still matter?

To your family, yourself, and the many of us reaching for your reflection of the sun … Yes, yes, YES!

It’s merely up to you to decide why—and for whom—you will write it.

Which of Rainer’s reasons for sharing your story motivates you?



  1. susan harms

    #s 3, 5 and 7.
    We all have so much to learn from each other. I feel the need to know that I’m not alone in this, and also let “them” know that they are not the only one either.

    • Michele

      #7 is a huge motivator for me, as well. There was a time when I felt very much alone in my story. I’m now determined to do what I can to make sure others don’t feel the same.

  2. Alizabeth Rasmussen

    I really like #7 as well. I’ve always been fascinated by the ways people (individuals, cultures, religions) attempt to define themselves in terms of what makes them different. Our willingness to honestly and openly share our stories connects us to a bigger picture and proves that we’re all a lot more alike than we are different.

    • Michele

      So true, Alizabeth! Our stories unite us in surprising, beautiful ways.

  3. Deanna

    I don’t even like admitting that I struggle with thinking my story isn’t worth telling, because I KNOW that I KNOW on a deep level that it’s important — but I still struggle at times!

    I’m taking this line with me … 🙂
    “To allow the stories of others to diminish the value of your own is like refusing to appreciate the warmth of the sun simply because it shines on so many others.”

    • Michele

      I know that I know that I know! Yes, me too. We know this, but forget it in the struggle. Grateful for you and YOUR story, Deanna!

  4. Ken Shaddox

    I really like number 6. My Father wrote his autobiography a few years ago and passed a copy on to me as well as my sibilings. It was amazing to read of his life, his travels, his role as a pastor and military chaplain. He cared about leaving a legacy for his family. I want to pass the torch of faith and life on to my loved ones as well.

    Thanks for a good post!

    • Michele

      What a gift, Ken! My father recently recorded his life story. It’s priceless to me, and to the rest of our family. I know it required a ton of time and emotional energy for him to record it. But it’s truly a gift to us.

  5. Jonnia Smith

    If you had asked me a year ago what I write, I could have easily asnwered with fiction and poetry. Lately, the NEED to tell my own stories has been pressing more and more from within. I asked myself who could possibly care or benefit, but the answer that kept rising up was ME. Is it selfish, then, to write my own stories? I only know that it has become necessary. I am trying to just trust and write.

    • Michele

      No, I don’t think it’s selfish at all. The telling/writing of our stories works like therapy, to help us understand ourselves and, hopefully, live differently and better. I know my husband and kids are glad I process in writing, and not always with them!


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