The Stories We Build For Ourselves

I recently heard a radio show that told the story of a man who came to the states as an immigrant when he was a child. A teacher saw how brilliant he was and brought him to a special school, which in turn got him a scholarship to Harvard.

 The main gist of the show was that this man didn’t tell the story from the perspective of “I’m a genius, I got what I deserved because of my hard work.” He chose another story, a story that involved extreme gratefulness for all of the people that had contributed to his happiness as a person.

His wife said that he is the most positive person she has ever met. That when he gets news, even hard news, she sees him choose how he will respond to it. That he will respond to it with the attitude of “my life is beautiful no matter what.” What a concept: that our attitudes don’t have to be something that are forced upon us but are something we choose.

Listen to this beautiful quote:

“These stories we tell about ourselves, they’re almost like our infrastructure. Like railroads or highways. We can build them almost any way we want to, but once they’re in place, this whole inner landscape grows up around them. So maybe the point here is that you should be careful about how you tell your story. Or at least conscious of it. Because once you’ve told it, once you’ve built the highway, it’s just very hard to move it. ”

I heard this and started thinking about my infrastructure, the one I have built for myself over the years. The story that I tell and the story that I live in.

I have had some disappointing things happen this week. I got my hopes up- and they came crashing down. I did things that I regretted and have been obsessing over them.  And the story, the infrastructure, that I have built around myself is crashing in on me, suffocating me.

Here are some of the stories I have told myself:

I am a victim.

Everyone who I love leaves me.

No one likes what they see when they really get to know me.

My mind is not healthy.

I am alone. I will always be alone.

Honestly, some of these infrastructures are not my fault. They were built up when I was a child. The truth is, humans helped build my story and hurt me deeply, building up my ideas of who I am and what the world looks like.

But now that I am an adult, I can give myself a new story, especially if I work hard every day to change the story I was given when I was young. I may have been a victim as a child, but now that I am an adult I am a volunteer. I am the only one who can tear down the old stories and can retell them and make them beautiful.

It takes a lot of work to do this. We need to bravely tear our way through these walls that are built up around us. We must tell ourselves “God never leaves you.” “You are beautiful” “I am thankful for my life.” Even when things are at their darkest, it is our choice.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says “Today I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live.”

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is what am I doing today, this very day, to choose life as the infrastructure I am building? Infrastructures are built one brick at a time, and every day we add onto it, for the good or for the bad.

What story will you choose to live in today?

8 thoughts on “The Stories We Build For Ourselves

  1. Kate, I am SO SORRY you got hurt. But thanks for the rest of this post – about building our infrastructures. Or, in too many cases, RE-building our infrastructures.

    I love your blogs, and your music. Be Blessed, and know that you’re a blessing to MANY. Thank you.

  2. I dont know what happened but you are in my prayers Kate. It sounds like the last month or so you have had some rough times. I hope you are able to rebuild, more stable and longer roads than you have seen previously.

    Ive been writing a series about my past wiht dating, or lack thereof… I dont know. I have a follow-up I am going to write and while there are some good insights, I think there are some not-s-good ones, ones I am going to try to see as challenges for me instead of defeats.

    Blessings to you!

  3. I love This American Life!! I’ve shared that episode a few times already. The thing that struck me most was that even when he found out his memories were false, he still chose to believe it. He found more comfort from the lie than from the truth. We are in danger of the same thing aren’t we? I thought it was an amazing analogy of deception.
    Also, that verse in Deut. is one of my favorites. It continues in verse 20…”For the LORD is your life…” May we continue to choose Him!
    Grace and Peace and comfort in your time of loss.

  4. Thank you for sharing Kate – yes! for re building the railroad tracks of our stories… choose life Deut 30: 19 something I return to and have to choose again often – but it is worth it – life is still worth living

  5. Dear Kate, your story resembles mine, as far as relationships go. Renewing the mind (and the story we tell ourselves) works. I agree it is hard work, (but not any harder than it has been living in the old story). Anyway, I just wanted to attest to your insight and let you know God is walking me through similar changes this year. Just like the man in the story, I am at Harvard too. Someone once told me if you find a turtle on a fencepost, you know God put him there bc he couldn’t have climbed up there. I feel like that right now, completely aware of God’s guidance. It is a true miracle.
    I’ve been dedicated to helping others re-script their lives, it has been my passion, but this season is for me and walking out the miracle God has done. I am still single, but a different single than I’ve been in the past.

    I decided to only think of myself in the way God sees me. Sheer willfulness doesn’t always work so well though, even as stubborn as I can be. So when I have trouble believing God’s truth for myself I just pretend it is someone else’s problem. Sometimes it is easier to see how God works for someone else. For those of us who find it easy to see others the way God sees them, this works amazingly well. (Not everyone can do that, no judgment, we all have different gifts). I just happen to be someone who could see all the ways God was working in other peoples lives, but not my own. (sometimes our gift is our weakness too). But little by little, my perception has changed.

    Ironically, God has put you on my heart this last week. I’ve been listening to your songs and thinking about you. Would love to see you if the opportunity arises! God will bless us with Godly men. I am sorry your heart is hurt right now, but I will believe with you. You have always inspired me, even from afar.

  6. Hi Kate, I am sorry to hear about what you have been going through. It hurts and it’s hard. I encourage you to lean in to God, to seek him, to cry out to him, to pour out your heart to him honestly and frankly about the pain and the disappointment. I am sure you are doing that. I was doing the same thing this morning, over the same issue (failed relationship) and was totally comforted by the realization that while people may fail me and abandon me, God never will. He has promised he will never leave me or forsake me, he will keep loving me, keep with me, keep taking care of me, no matter what anyone else does, no matter who walks in and out of my life. It was immensely comforting and I feel total peace, I pray the same overwhelming, understanding-passing peace would be yours and guard your heart and mind in Jesus.

  7. It’s funny. I’m not in the same place, but the title of this post has resonated with me since you posted it. I just haven’t been able to decide why. I think it’s the consciousness, perhaps coming with age or perhaps with spiritual maturity, of how much our choices, choices to act in accordance with our selfish flesh or choices to walk in the Spirit, affect our lives.

    I hate change. I’ve always hated change, unless it’s change I choose to instigate, and sometimes even then. I’ve built (God has granted) a pretty happy “world” around myself, even as a single, and I find myself resenting factors coming to change that world. It dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that that resentment was purely selfish. The changes which are going to – inevitably – draw people away from a relationship with me – are going to build and benefit them. Who, then, am I to discourage those changes? And to what end? To falsely support an infrastructure of relationships not meant to last forever?

    These choices begin, as you say, in our daily lives. I see that every day when I realize that 80% of the time, my students’ attitude and achievement reflects my attitude and mood when I get up in the morning. I can’t blame them when the problem is within me!

    And these are our choices. To build a story resonating with our own failures or with the successes of God at work and with His glory! To go through each day speaking Truth, that we have a hope beyond today, or to walk in pity that we cannot build the world we desire for ourselves.

    Yes, choose life.

  8. The stories we tell ourselves about our past color our mood and our outlook. They color the lenses with which we view our present and future.
    The Lord has been speaking to my heart over the course of two years about a relationship that ended not only with disappointment but in a way that took a direct blow to my self esteem as a woman.

    I went from shock, denial, bargaining, trying desperately to cling on to the person who rejected me, to anger, to hatred, to brokenness, vacillating between victory and victimization.

    I am still growing now I am at the stage where I am healing, no longer waiting on an apology but learning to accept what happened.

    See it as an experience and seeing myself as a survivor, which I truly am.

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