It’s Not My Story to Tell

I’ve received a few messages like the following over the past year,

I feel led to write a book about my life. There are some ugly things in my past that involve my family. I don’t want to hurt them. At the same time I feel that I need to tell the truth about my past. How do I do that without hurting my family? How can I write honestly about my past without throwing my family under the bus?

My answer usually is, “I write about my life, my story, my faith, my viewpoint. Mine. Not someone else’s. I do not write stories that are not mine to tell.”

I do not share someone else’s story without their permission. Ever. Not those in Facebook groups. Not my kids. Not my husband. Not those who may have hurt me. Not even those I’m commending. If they haven’t given me permission to write about them, I won’t share it.

When I write, I tell my story. I share my thoughts and feelings about various events and issues. To do that, I do not need to divulge the sinful or ugly actions of others. I try to be honest and transparent without exposing someone else’s sin.

One of my goals is to glorify God in my writing.

A second goal is to honor my family, even those who’ve hurt me in the past.

As for those who hurt me…

I have written honestly about my mom. She was an abusive drunk who got saved the day she died. She was a hurting lady who hurt others. She made many mistakes as a parent. When I share, the focus is not on specific things she did, but on how I saw God working in my life through the pain. We had a great relationship the last year or so if her life. I would not share if she were still alive, if she would feel shame or humiliation. She died twenty years ago. Her parents and siblings are all gone. My writing will not hurt them. Even so, I’ve not shared everything that happened. Some of it was not done to me; it’s not my story to tell.

There are others who are still alive who have hurt me, but I never share anything that could identify them. I share general things. Not details. And not any identifying things. I’ve written some stories where I changed details, dates, locations so no one could identify who I’m writing about.

One reason I don’t share details or names is that doing so would not glorify God. As Christians, we should always ask if what we are sharing on our blogs or in books glorifies God. If not, don’t share it.

Nowhere in scripture are we told to confess the sins of others.

I am to forgive others, not expose them to shame or humiliation. I have been forgiven much. I must forgive others, regardless of what they did. I’ve forgiven all the hurts from my past. All of it. I can write about my past and what God has done in and for me more honestly and objectively because I’ve forgiven. I also don’t need to give details because I’ve worked through the forgiveness.

I realize God is still working in those people, the ones who hurt us. One day, when they accept Christ, they will be a new creation! The old will have passed away! Then, if they wish to confess their past sins to the public, they can be the one to share what God has done in their lives, how He’s changed them. It’s not for me to confess their sin, now or ever.

Additionally, we don’t need to share all the details to get our point across. Speaking in generalities can be just as effective. Keeping it a bit vague helps my readers identify with me. They can see God working in not only my story but also how He could work in theirs!

For example I may write, “Ugly things happened to me when I was still in middle school. Things no young woman should have to deal with. Yet God has helped me work through forgiveness. He has helped me find peace.”

This would be much better than saying, “When I was twelve my uncle Gezakiah beat me at my grandparents’ farm in Kentucky.” (An example, not true for me. I have no uncle who beat me nor do I have family in Kentucky.)

In the first option no blame is placed on anyone in a way that might shame them. Plus readers who experienced a different type of abuse can relate to and learn from my experience.

To do this, extensive editing may be required. You may need to write the story completely and then walk away. Come back to it in a day or two. Take out any identifying details. Change to pseudonyms. When speaking of a specific sin, change to more general, vague terms.

Pray. Pray to ask God to help you see your true intentions. Are you telling the story to get revenge? To prove how bad the other person was? Or because God has done something powerful in your life and you want others to know how amazing His grace is? If it’s to get revenge or show the sins of others, find a good counselor; you don’t need to publish a book yet.

One last point about sharing the sins of others…

Each of us has sinned. Every single one of us. We’ve all hurt people. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Often the other person meant no harm, but they said or did something that offended you. Scripture tells us to go to them, alone, to talk through it and be reconciled. When the topic is abuse, though it’s hard, we are still to forgive.

Do you want a family member blogging about everything you have done wrong over the years? Do you want someone else to bare your sins to the world? Do you want articles written about every time you said or did something hurtful, rude, or mean?

I know I don’t.

Isn’t it better to share in vague terms about evil or abuse and then write extensively on the beautiful, glorious work of God in your life?

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

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