listening to someone’s story will change you

March Florida sky

They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.

Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?” “No sir,” the woman answered. Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

Once again Jesus spoke to the people. This time he said, “I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.” John 8:4-11

Derek and Geoff, March 8

I love this story about Jesus because his point is simple. “Listen, you’ve been walking in the dark. If you follow me then you will have the light that gives life.”

 Yesterday – in my ongoing commitment to walk more deliberately in the light – I headed down to Bradenton again to visit with my brother, Geoff. It’s always good to see one another, but the best part is our ongoing conversation. Let me explain what we’ve been doing.

Back before Christmas we launched this series of interviews. In a nutshell the process is about me getting at the heart of Geoff’s story.

I’ve been able to use my background as a journalist to ask good questions, and then the deliberate nature of the interview format has set the stage for an unusual level of candor and self-analysis. The resulting conversations have been, quite simply, remarkable; priceless.

SO WHAT: The question, as you can guess, is becoming, “What do I do with this story?”

How do I process such heart-level communication and work it into either a Q&A, or a book, or a series of articles? And what is it about? I mean, really? What is the single, consistent, filter through which the narrative is all poured? Is there a particular lens through which I’m viewing my brother, or through which he is viewing the world?

I’ll write more about what that lens turns out to be in another post. But for today, here’s the important idea. Listening to someone’s story will change you. I think we all know this intuitively, and I suspect that this is one reason so many of us fail to listen well – either on purpose or subconsciously. We know that an authentic story is powerful. So, consequently, we often try our best not to listen, because we are afraid of change.

I’ll share one nugget of story-powered truth for now. Any more would be too much for a short blog post!

REAL RELATIONSHIPS: Our conversation drifted into the nature of relationships, and how the friendships we have with other people help to shape us.

We talked about how important it is for each one of us to have people in our lives who really know us. And we talked about how – sometimes – circumstances make it difficult for that to happen (and that was often true in our relationship, as brothers). Sometimes the self we present to others is inauthentic or contrived… or the person the world thinks we are is not the real deal… or we are unable to share our own heart and hopes and longings… or we try to live into dreams that are not – and cannot be – our own.

The bottom line here is that when a person does not, or cannot, or is not allowed to actually live as their authentic self… then that person in effect has no real relationships.

Yesterday in Bradenton. That's me, my cousin - Liz - from the UK, Geoff, and Maggie

APPLICATION: Some of our conversation covered personal history, and some of it was more generalized. But taking time to talk about relationships – and how easy it is for us to avoid them – gave me pause. How often do I push people away – even unconsciously – because I have created such a narrow space in which we can relate to one-another in honesty?

Here’s the thing. None of us will ever grow, or evolve, or change, or experience redemption, or heal because we are first compelled to be exactly the person someone else thinks we should be (or our understanding of that ideal) before they are willing to know us.

Real relationships are based on authenticity and integrity. First we build an honest relationship, and then we’re able to grow together – BOTH OF US – from there.

And then it’s always a better story – DEREK


  1. Authenticity is such a gift. It takes such effort to be genuine. I am thinking of the couple of days I will be privileged to spend with two other pastors next week. It’s a covenant group. We’ve gathered twice a year since 2008. Our relationships were pretty deep prior, and our commitment to be real with one another was in place in our friendships even before we entered into the covenant. But I would say it was not until 2011 that we began to be deeply open with each other.


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