Life is more complex than the story we tell ourselves

Life is more complex than the story we tell ourselves

The school holidays are here again, and we are in Orford, enjoying the chance to relax.

This year is one of the most unusual in my life so far. It is a year of change and transition, a year that I know I will look back on as an important one, but in the middle of the experience, I’m not sure exactly why.

One of the things that is becoming clear for me is the truth of Carl Jung’s statement,

“The most important question you can ask is: what is the myth [story] by which you live your life?”

I am realising more and more, that we all have unconscious stories about ourselves and others which we assume are true, and give us our bearings in the complexity of life. All the evidence suggests that those stories are powerful filters that actually shape the way we see the world and the way we see others. Sometimes though, events shake the assumptions behind those stories and we experience a crisis.

Over the past year or two, I have seen how different people in my life have different stories that describe me. For some people, I can’t do anything right, and for others I can’t do anything wrong. Apparently, polarisation of stories like this is common when an organisation has been through a crisis, however I am realising that it is also part of normal life, but just not as obvious.

I have just finished reading 1 and 2 Corinthians, where Paul was having to counter the stories people were telling about him. He had to counter both the people who thought he could do no wrong and also the people who thought he could do no right. He countered the simplistic stories with a complex reality. Instead of trying to prove that he was right and that people could trust him, he made visible his weaknesses, asking them instead to trust God:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. [9] But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. [10] That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Life in a story is simple and its characters are consistent and generally two dimensional. Real life is much more complicated. Real people are inconsistent and damaged, and the only person who can be trusted is God.

The thing I am discovering about myself and others is that it is very important to examine the stories on which we base our lives, and, like Paul, be ready to admit the complex reality rather than look to protect the simplistic narrative.

I'd love to hear what you think...

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