Posted by: riverchilde | April 19, 2011

The courage of storytelling

An interesting little dust-up is happening in the blogosphere about whether social media is killing the art of storytelling, or just changing the means by which it is done. The challenge has been tossed out by Chris Sullivan of, in his recent article, “The Art of Storytelling in a World of Technology.”

Can you tell a story via Twitter? What about Facebook? Various bloggers have taken up the gauntlet, including Maggiecakes of WordPress, who argues that “we’re all writing our autobiographies, whether we know it or not,” every time we use social media. I think of far-flung friends, whose current stories I know only because of our connection on Facebook.  I have to agree with  Amanda Cosco of the Social Times, who said “social media makes story-telling even more possible today than in earlier years.”

But what I wonder is: Does it matter how we tell stories, or does it just matter that we are courageous enough to tell them? We’ve had some group discussions in our Ministry and Media Culture class about  the perils of blogging, about concerns of exposing ourselves and our stories in a way that puts us at risk of judgment, about feeling the need to shape our public persona in such as way that what we post is beyond censure.  Faultless.  Clean, unblemished… sterile?

When I recall the best stories I have ever been given, whether family stories, friends’ stories, or classic stories told by masters, they are not clean, unblemished or sterile. Instead, they all bear within them this kernel of truth: those within the story (which is, of course, each of us) are flawed and damaged, struggling with messy, difficult problems and challenges. Those very-best-of-all-stories required someone to expose the very-not-so-best of themselves for the sake of the one receiving the story. Here I’ll borrow from the East of Eden quote illustrating Maggiecake’s blog: “If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And here I make a rule–a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last.”

I refer back again to Scharer and Hiberath’s discussion of  “the gifted We” in The Practice of Communicative Theology.  “The fact that in a group another person is able to open him- or herself up to me, that we are able to open up to one another, that we are able to suffer and rejoice together and enrich one another, all this we experience time and again as a gift” (p. 93-94). How we each honestly, bravely, brokenly, but persistently live forward into today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow is our great and grand story.

To fearfully hold our stories to ourselves is to withhold a gift to others. Thank you, each and every one of you, who share your stories with the world.



  1. […] love this excerpt from a blog post one of my students wrote: Does it matter how we tell stories, or does it just matter that we are […]

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