Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | January 28, 2010

Knowing People’s Stories

     At a recent gathering with friends one person in the group reflected on how people’s lives are an ongoing story that is constantly being written and that none of us truly knows another person’s story. My friend’s insights inspired me to reflect both on my story and also on my presumptions of other people’s stories. I have encountered people who had totally inaccurate perceptions of my story. They believed that they knew who I was, what I thought, what my motivations were, what my intentions were, etc. and yet they were way off base. Their misperceptions (good or bad) add a layer to my story – there’s the Nancy that I am and the various “other Nancys” that people think I am and even though the “other Nancys” are not the real me they affect my life because they affect how others relate to me.

     I am certain that my experience is not unique; undoubtedly, other people have similar experiences. While it irks me that people think they know my story (and therefore “me”), I must confess that I am guilty of making the same mistake with others. On more than one occasion, I have presumed to know someone else’s story and I suspect that everyone else has made the same mistake at some point. We take a snapshot of what we know of someone and create a whole story around that image. If people are a jerk at work we assume they are a jerk in all other aspects of their lives. If a classmate is quiet in school we assume that the person is quiet all the time. We create entire identities for people based on limited knowledge (or worse yet, rumors) and too often it doesn’t occur to us that we could be wrong. I once worked with a guy who was a total nightmare at the office and later discovered that outside of work he was a kind and loving husband and father with many friends. I never would have guessed that his story included such polar opposites.

     I have come to learn that even if you know a lot about a person and/or know a person well you still don’t know the person’s whole story. My parents were married for close to 25 years before my mother learned that my father hated mac ‘n’ cheese. My husband continues to be amazed that I love to watch war movies. Families often presume to know each other’s stories and yet they can be totally wrong. Well, maybe that’s just my family but I suspect that we’re not alone.

     It might sound a little sad or lonely knowing that no one person truly knows your whole story but there actually is someone that knows the real you and that’s God. All those thoughts and feelings you have, including those you haven’t shared with anyone, are known to God. God searches you and delves deep into your soul, unearthing all that you are and all you are capable of. God is at work knowing you even if you have been ignoring or denying God. When other people totally misunderstand you, God understands. When other people make inaccurate assumptions about you, God knows the real deal. Whenever you’re confused about yourself, talk to God because God understands you better than you do. And even though God knows your story, go ahead and tell God about it; God enjoys a heartfelt conversation with you about you.

Grace and peace.



  1. Thank you for sharing this, Nancy. It is true that we make assumptions about people and create our own stories about them based on the little bit of info that we know.

    Also sharing our stories is important. I went to a storytelling workshop a few years ago, and the presenter (who happens to be an MTSO alum, David Austin Skye) said something very profound. We tell our stories again and again until that we actually hear them for ourselves.

    Thanks for your reflections. Peace.

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