Writing about an experience unleashes its power in your life
This morning I stumbled upon an article published some time ago in the desert news:
It starts out with a great example of how to write a compelling personal history. What really caught my eye though is this section:
“The purpose of all of us in mortality is to learn through our experiences, whatever they may be. Stories infuse our life with meaning. We are here to learn from our experiences. … For the experience to be meaningful to you, it needs to be verbalized or written. … Until you speak or write about it, it doesn’t have power in your life.”
Personally, I’m more of a doer than a talker, but I totally agree with the above statement – even if it takes a little extra effort for me to talk or write about an experience. Let me give you an example. I’ll probably write about it again, when the booklet comes out in a couple of weeks, but I’m sure you’ll have forgotten about this post by then anyway, so here is my recent experience:
In my local church I get to stand in front of a group of youngsters once a quarter. Our Primary presidency asked us to not teach the monthly theme (they do that themselves) but instead to talk about our lives, to let the kids know who we are. I would much rather talk about a principle and tell a story about someone else, so this request pushed me a bit out of my comfort zone. The last time I shared something I talked about an adventure I had with two of my friends, they are now my brothers-in-law, in the Grand Canyon some 30 years ago. I had tucked it away as a great experience, but without much ‘power in [my] life’.
The three us, then 17 and 18 years old, were on a cross country road trip. It was the middle of July and I had come to visit from Germany. We met in Wisconsin and then drove their little yellow pickup truck all the way to San Diego and then up the coast to their home near Portland, Oregon. I had my list of places I wanted to visit and the Grand Canyon was on it. Arriving at the visitor center early in the morning, we looked at the posted map and I convinced them to go on what looked like a 3 mile hike down to the Colorado River. It was 9 miles and nobody has ever trusted my distance judgement since.
Each of us took a 12oz can of Kerns fruit nectar and off we went. Any of you who have any experience hiking in the middle of the Summer in the desert/canyons are probably immediately raising their eye brows and shaking their head over such stupidity. One of my brother-in-laws has since visited the Grand Canyon. On one of the shuttle buses he saw a big poster showing three teenagers with a warning that those are the typical people who need to get rescued. Although it wasn’t us, it well could have been. Aside from a rattle snake, we never encountered anyone during our self-inflicted ordeal. When we finally crawled (literally!) out of the Grand Canyon at around midnight on that ill-fated day, we did it without having to be rescued by helicopter or rangers or anyone. They couldn’t have known about us.
As I said, I had always thought of that as a great adventure. I had picked that story for Sharing Time to illustrate that if we just move forward one step at a time we can accomplish anything. I delivered my story to the children as planned. When I asked what lesson we can take from that, one of the 10 year olds said ‘don’t be stupid’.
Later that day for family dinner, which we have with said brothers-in-law every Sunday, I shared what happened to me during church. Together the three of us relived the experience one more time, our spouses and children hooting and hollering along the way. I noticed that I had forgotten about of half of it. All three of us have served for many years in the Scouting program since. Neither one of us has done anything remotely as stupid as that. [Just want to reassure you that you can trust your boys’ adult leaders!]
“Until you speak or write about it, it doesn’t have power in your life.” Speaking and subsequently writing about it, has made this experience extremely powerful in my life. Every time I think about it, I feel extremely grateful to a Heavenly Father who truly watches out for his children, even when they do really, really stupid things. And I am grateful for good, reliable friends.
Unlocking the power of personal experiences in the lives of many is exactly the reason for my starting Rememberize. If you have a great story, tell it! You are not the only one who learns from it, but it also has the potential to be a power in the lives of your family members.