True(r) stories lead us to divine truth

  • February 8, 2024

People are curious and beautiful and mysterious. One of the things I love most about humans is our capacity to make meaning. It is endlessly fascinating to me that many people can be in the same room, experiencing the same objective reality and come away with such beautifully different perspectives and subjective understandings of what has happened. We are all living in the stories of our lives, whether we acknowledge them or not. 

These stories add so much depth and colour and beauty to the world. At the same time, they add nuance, complexity, perspective and conflict. I love listening to people and hearing their stories, which help me to understand more about them, the world and myself. 

Lately, I have been wrestling with a few of my own long-standing stories. And in talking them through with others, I have become aware that they are not fully true. And that leads to suffering. 

One of my classic narratives is that I work hard. There are elements of deep truth in this story. I love a good challenge. Putting in hours to practice and perfect a thing is satisfying. I love the way it feels to accomplish something difficult. But I have also picked up some lies in this story. I have been deceived into thinking that hard work is a competition that I need to win. Seduced by the lie that love can be earned. Blinded by making myself a martyr and looking for external validation. The true parts of the story are hindered by the untruths. 

Living in a false story is painful. I feel isolated and confused. I try to force my reality onto others. And I get angry in my efforts to convince other people that my version is reality. It doesn’t go well. I become the martyr I am imagining. Further, I do damage to others when I live in and by false narratives. To hold on to being right, I stop listening to other people. My curiosity disappears. I write other people as the villains and try to recruit sympathizers to my cause. I get locked into defensiveness. 

At some point the false parts of the story rub up against reality. Other perspectives shed light on things I missed. Errors in my understanding glare too brightly for my dim eyes. God challenges me to see a bigger picture than I wanted to see. It’s uncomfortable at best and threatening at worst. And this is a potential turning point. Will I distort myself further to maintain my comfort in my own story? Or will I risk changing the narrative to something bigger, larger and more true?

I believe in the existence of an objective Truth, a truth that is located in a divine source, and that we are all seeking it. None of us possess it completely, and all of us taste and touch and see it in pieces. I believe that we sense it most clearly when we collect up the fragments of it as a community, bringing my pieces together with yours and ours together with others.

In a world plagued by polarization, overwhelmed by information and addicted to distraction, humanity needs true(r) stories. We need to start with the stories we tell ourselves, the stories of our own lives, and then extend into the stories of our communities and our world. 

My moments get clearer and less painful when I recognize and let go of the false narratives that I have collected. I picked them up because they were more comfortable than the truth, or because I could not handle the full reality, or often because my mind and heart just were not big enough yet to understand anything else. And when I realize that the story is not serving me well, I can write a new one, holding greater depth and wisdom and truth.

And the world needs us to do this together, too. We need to write stories that give meaning and purpose and belonging to all people. We need to listen long and hard to each other. We are called to recognize the partial truths and distortions that turn us into enemies. 

May we strive to live from true(r) stories today than we did yesterday.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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