One of the most uncomfortable experiences in life is that moment when the people around you express views and opinions which, unknown to them, negatively target you or someone close to you. It’s one thing when the subjects are benign, when the act of revealing the way you identify with the subject of their ridicule is low-risk. For instance, if you’re chatting with someone and they make a joke about fans of a certain TV show, and you reveal that you’re a fan of that show, it’s awkward but unlikely to fundamentally impact your life or theirs.
But when we’re talking about ideas and identities which run much deeper, it’s not just awkward. The prospect of revealing your vulnerability in a context which has already been made threatening is terrifying. It’s what keeps people in the closet. It’s what keeps minorities of all kinds silent and hidden.
And in our current cultural climate, it’s something which desperately needs to change.
How much different would our world be if those of us who occupy minority positions told our stories openly? How much different would our culture be if people knew, when they said these things, that they were staring into the eyes of the very people they were about to belittle and ostracize? How much better would the world be if people knew from the start that their friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors were living examples of great diversity in all kinds of ways?
In the interest of a better world, perhaps it’s time to begin more freely telling our stories to those around us. Not just the benign stories, the ones which make us feel vulnerable. The ones which reveal the things we have been afraid to reveal. The ones which align us with the groups we wish were more accepted by the world around us. The ones which refute the generally accepted picture of what is normal, what is acceptable, what “good people” do and think.
If every single one of us committed to telling just one more story about ourselves, to revealing one secret we’ve been afraid to reveal, think of the shift in cultural consciousness which would result? If those of us who have hidden parts of ourselves and our existences in the shadows for fear of the reaction of the masses brought those parts out into the sunlight, how much more accepted and strengthened would we all feel?
Our shared stories are what shape our understanding of the world around us, and they are the foundation of our culture and spirituality. Our religions and spiritual paths begin with stories: myths, fables, parables. They begin with narratives which describe how things are, how things were, how things ought to be. And when we withhold or exclude certain narratives from that process, we diminish ourselves.
So, that’s my first challenge to everyone in these tumultuous times. Tell your story. Reshape how the people around you see the world. Enrich the narrative. Don’t allow your own experience to be shut out of the collective mythology.