Not all stories are meant for public display.

Two stories sit side by side in Luke 8, similar in circumstance, but different in response:

  1. A demon-possessed man, living as though dead in tombs, freed of his torture and restored to sanity. “Return home and tell how much God has done for you,” Jesus said. (Luke 8:39)
  2. A church leader and father, grieving his dead daughter. Jesus shows up, brings the dead girl back to life. But then surprises all by ordering them “not to tell anyone what had happened.” (Luke 8:56)

Both received a miracle. Both experienced Jesus’ ability to redeem the lost and resurrect the dead. One is told to share it, the other ordered to contain it. Seventeen verses apart.

I don’t understand this, can’t fathom Jesus’ reasons for responding so differently to similar stories. Even so, there’s one clear truth I can’t avoid:

Some stories are meant to be shared, while others are meant to be savored.

I feel this tension. I love creating new stories and remembering old ones, perfecting both through craft and revision. When my own emotions are touched by what I’ve created, I long to share it. I hope the guts of my story can help someone else feel less alone in theirs. This knowledge compels me forward.

But sometimes I hesitate, want to hold back. The details of my life feel personal, and to reveal it leaves me exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes I’d rather keep it close to my chest, savor it, protect it from the critique of those who read or watch.

There is a fine dance between retreat and revelation. Sometimes we need to push ourselves forward, through the fear of exposure and into authentic display. Other times we need to hold back, give ourselves time to savor and ponder, save revelation for another day—or, perhaps, never.

I don’t always know when to reveal and when to retreat, but here are a few considerations when deciding whether or not a story is ready to be shared:

Timing. As a general rule, the more current a story, the more effective it is. But sometimes a current story is a volatile one. Intense emotion can be reckless, dangerous if not handled gently. I’ve birthed some of my best blog posts and articles in the heat of emotion. The Truth About Doubt is one. When God Asks the Impossible is another. But posts written in extreme emotion usually need to sit for a day or two until perspective gets the upper hand. Unsure? Invite a fresh pair of eyes to read, just to be sure.

Permission. When my story involves another, it’s essential to ask permission first. Much of what I write and speak about involves my family. For the most part, they’ve given me absolute permission to use our experiences to encourage others. Still, fragile parts remain. For now I’m choosing to hold those close, protect the integrity of those I love with a promise of privacy. My story is mine to tell, but theirs is theirs.

Motivation: Motivation often determines outcome. Why do I want to share this? What is the value to the reader, listener? Is my goal to elevate myself and feel important, or to connect with someone else, make a difference? If I’m driven by venting, vanity or retaliation, better to unleash it on a journal and not the public.

When it comes to your story, do you feel pulled between retreat and revelation? How do you determine when to share and when to savor?

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