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How to tell "embarrassing" or "sensitive" stories

How to tell "embarrassing" or "sensitive" stories

When preserving a story people frequently will have sensitive stories. What do you do with these? There isn’t one perfect solution or easy answer, but Spencer Kimball offered some excellent advice:
“The truth should be told but we should not emphasize the negative.”

What qualifies as “sensitive?”
  • Stories that are embarrassing to someone
  • Stories that show someone in a bad light, or that point out dark or troubled periods where poor decisions were made.

Understandably, we want to protect our posterity from a negative view of us or a spouse or other family member. That is noble, and in some cases may be the right approach. Yet it is those trials in our lives that define and make us who we are. Without the context of challenges, how can we adequately comprehend the character of the person?

Consider these true examples:
  • A woman’s strength and rock-solid courage and amazing capacity to forgive are directly attributable to her years of marriage to an abusive, unfaithful spouse.
  • The ever-present patience and faith of parents were forged while dealing with the addiction challenges of a beloved daughter.

Sharing challenges and mistakes without dwelling or focusing on the negative aspects is a wonderful way to help others know that the challenges they face have been faced before. It will give others the opportunity to learn from your experiences.

However, there is no value to be gained by sharing what sheds negative light on someone, so leave it out. There may be cases where an experience is related with the understanding that it not be shared until a certain number of years has passed or until all those involved have passed away. In those cases, discuss as a family how to best handle those stories.

While speaking about Pass it Down one time, Chris was asked about people whose relatives had been Nazis and participated in their atrocities. “How do you talk about a story that should be forgotten?” he was asked. While an extreme example, there is an important lesson here.

Everyone has dark parts of their family past. You do. Do you want to forget about it, or can you learn something from it? If you want to forget it, don't record it. It will be gone in 1-2 generations. But if there is something that can be learned, what is it? Perhaps your responsibility is to find that lesson (or lessons) and share them with your family.

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash