“What are the stories people are telling about you & what are the stories you tell about yourself.”
She said these two, more than facts and figures, reveal the true you. As I think about these two thoughts by Aaker, I am reminded of the importance of testimony. How I impact people will be revealed in the stories they eventually tell others about me and what I tell about myself is also going to be revealing to others about who I am, about what matters to me most and what is significant to me.
What stories are people telling?
As I think about this, I reflect on all the stories I’ve heard about people from others. I remember good stories, and bad stories. I remember specific things I’ve heard that have left impressions on me in great ways, which have evoked emotions and feelings in me about certain people.
I remember Carol Tudor of Hyles-Anderson College say one time about her dear friend Marlene Evans, who is home with the Lord: “[Marlene] was not a jealous woman, nor was she ever in competition with anyone.” Carol referred to the Chapter 8, verse 6 of Song of Solomon: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.” What a wonderful testimony of a great lady whom I’ve never met. But hearing about her long after her passing is significant. Material wealth, position, influence, and popularity only go so far in life, but faithfulness, commitment, and godliness surpass to eternity. The stories about people last long after they are gone too.
Likewise, I thought about the stories people are telling about me. Are they good; are they bad? I’ll probably never know; which is why I strongly believe in passing-along-the-goody, meaning, when I hear something good about someone, I go and tell them all about it. So and so said they really liked your pie for dinner, for instance. Like Mrs Evans, I’ll see her in heaven one day and tell her all the good things Carol said about her. But she won’t need that to feel good about herself, because being in heaven is all together sweet, isn’t it?
What stories am I telling?
Before I came to know the Lord, I was very guarded about almost everything. I took great care about who came into my world, and I still do to some extent. But eventually, I came to realize that it really doesn’t matter in the end how careful I am because what matters is what I am saying. So I need to ask: what am I saying about myself?
Being forthcoming is not to be confused with being an open book, where only one is in the center, hijacking conversations. I remember learning on a visit to the Midwest that as we listen to others, we need to do this with intent, without interrupting or turning the conversation into something about myself.
I know a few people whom I feel disconnected to because I cannot speak with them; they don’t listen and I cannot get my questions and concerns addressed. They overreact, or withdraw, and they don’t share joy with you when something good happens. However, these are the same people who enjoy being the center of attention. They like being sought after, they like talking about themselves and they appreciate your advice. But they are sadly, the last people I would ask for advice. Why? Because they only like to be heard, but do not listen themselves.
After coming to an understanding about what pleases God, I know it is important to Him that I give of myself to others and connect with them in a considerable way. That is, as Aaker put it “to speak with sincerity so others feel better after being with you.” When others are with me, it is important that they hear me not as a clanging gong, or as a self-centered individual, but as a person who listens and responds with care. When I listen with intent, I am interested and accessible and I can help others feel valued.
The bible says in Philippians chapter 2, verse 3: “[Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Isn’t this what authenticity means?
While I can’t control what others say about me, I can take to heart every day what God says in Chapter 22, verse 1 of Proverbs: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” It is better to keep a good name than to raise or add unto a great estate. Like Mrs Evans, what she left behind was her good name, and that is more lucrative than all the valuables this earth has to offer. The root of all good I do is God’s redemptive work in my life and His power through me. Someone wise said: “The title you hold will fade and your works will be forgotten. But it is the investment you make into the spiritual life of your children that matters.” I want to leave a legacy for my children to follow that will last them for the rest of their lives. A life to be remembered that lived for Him authentically.
Question: How does your legacy look these days?