The Glass Story

“Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives. Stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.”

— Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D.

The stories we tell ourselves, define us.

BLW The Marriage of Tobias and Sara

Like Ms. Rutledge writes, stories are how we justify our actions, make our decisions, and understand the world. Our character is wrapped up in those stories, and it seems to me that the strength of our character depends in large part on how we construct our stories.

A glass story is a brittle story. It’s a story that needs to be protected through whatever means necessary – isolation, rigidity, self-righteousness, denial, or contradiction. Surrounding ourselves with like thinkers, isolating ourselves both physically and mentally from others, denying other stories, or constantly contradicting other ideas are ways that this story is protected. It has to be protected or it shatters.

The rubber story, however, is a flexible story. It bends when it external changes demand it. It flexes as our lives, status, and circumstances change. It doesn’t need protection because it bounces back.

The glass story looks strong because it’s never-changing, immobile, and resolute. The rubber story looks weak because it doesn’t retain it’s shape under pressure.

I think though, that the opposite is true. The glass story looks strong, but it’s weakness is it’s vulnerability to the ever-changing world around us. Times change, people change, but a glass story doesn’t change.

The rubber story, however, is vastly more flexible. It can go through any situation and snap back into place. It can bend as needed, but remain intact. It doesn’t need to be protected, isolated, or defended. It’s not rigid and it’s not contradictory.

Maybe part of the religious, political, and cultural divide in this country could be mitigated a little by reconstructing the stories we tell ourselves. If our beliefs are rigid, unchanging, and inflexible; if we choose our political candidates long before we learn anything about them; if we surround ourselves only with people who we agree with; if the first words we speak in response are words of contradiction; if being right is more important than doing right; maybe we have built our story out of glass and fear it will shatter if challenged, thus shattering our character.

But a rubber story is adaptable and much stronger. Listening to someone with a contradictory opinion won’t shatter us. It will temporarily bend while we listen, then snap back. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe, we’ll learn something new and we’ll change the shape of our story to fit the new information while retaining our strength in character.

Our stories define us, and our character. But our stories don’t create us. We create them.

And maybe more importantly, we choose the materials from which we construct our stories.

Yesterday’s gift of time … Line judge again for our daughters’ volleyball game … Three separate rides to three schools for our three kids … Did the dishes … Tried to be flexible.

About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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