By Suzanne Broetje, Board Chair, Broetje Family Trust
Story telling is foundational to our organizational culture and daily practices here at Broetje Family Trust. Stories help us to know each other more deeply, to share our passions and dreams, as well as to explore our pains and triggers. Stories also connect us to the larger story — God’s Story. How does my story become our story, as together we consider how we are part of The Story of living together as part of God’s Dream for the world?
This month, our staff finished reading The Seventh Story: Us, Them, and the End of Violence by Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren. Just this week, we gathered together for the first time in over a year to share our reflections from this book.
Higgins and McLaren talk about six dominant narratives of our time. Dividing into six small groups, we considered these stories and how they show up in our own lives:
- Domination: We discussed patriarchal systems of male control and aggression that create divisions between husbands and wives, fathers and children in our homes.
- Revolution: We shared stories of resistance in the workplace, as new managers come in and try to assert authority without listening to coworkers and learning from them.
- Isolation: We reflected on all the ways we pull away from those around us during stressful times; it feels easier to let people go and just deal with issues alone.
- Purification: We talked about family members confronting racism in their lives, putting up barriers for self-preservation and fearing diversity and inclusion.
- Accumulation: We shared all the ways we have accumulated “stuff” to fit in with others, to feel better about ourselves, and to give us more power and esteem.
- Victimization: We reflected on the ways we have used our pain to manipulate others, to justify our behavior and sense of identity, or to label and reject others.
All six of these narrative strategies are stories of violence, pitting “us” against “them,” and trapping us in a feedback loop that destroys the Dream of God. We spoke to our tendencies to return like for like — how a response to being dominated often embodied one of these six stories of violence.
We draw two large take-aways from the book that will continue to inform our work.
- We must become more aware of the dominant stories we hear and tell in our daily lives. Do we recognize the violence in these stories? Can we resist engaging them and letting them define us? Can we, together, help one another discover a path that leads to a healing and loving outcome?
- We commit to telling stories of love and compassion. Rather than place blame, we shed layers of selfishness, pettiness, and entitlement to embrace stories of healing, reconciliation, and redemption.
The choice is ours, and one we must make every day, to offer more life giving stories to the world.
Do you have a story of Reconciliation to share? Broetje Family Trust’s Seventh Stories Project seeks to share and tell more of these kinds of stories on our blog and in our newsletter. Please be in touch if you’d like to tell your story with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.