The very act of sharing a story with another human being contradicts the extreme isolation that characterizes so many of our lives. As such, storytelling carries within it the seeds of community.
When a child takes his first steps alone, stumbles, and falls, we would never say he failed. Failing is a part of the learning process. Reframing the meaning of our own shortcomings and failures can be an important step in our personal growth.
The narrative structure of story impresses understandable patterns of meaning on experience, no matter how discontinuous an event is with our core beliefs and current view of things. This shows up most vividly in the midst of personal crises.
A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” Said the master, “How would you like it if someone offered you fruit and chewed it up before giving it to you?” No one can find your meaning for you. Not even the master.
Don’t judge. Just hear what the person has to say. Thoughtfully consider its meaning for him. When you attend to another’s speech in this way, you may come to recognize the miracle of words. This is sacred listening. To such an ear, story, in all of its forms, is transformed into a melodious language. When the listener is this receptive, both he and the teller are elevated to a new realm of communication. This is the foundation of building trust and safety in any relationship.