August 22, 2013

The Danger of A Single Story

by , in
In her 2009 TED Talk, Chimamanda Zgozi Adichi tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice. She warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk missing something. Our lives and our cultures are composed of many overlapping stories, and while one story may shed light on a great deal, it certainly can never be the only story. We are webs of existence. All too often we define ourselves by the biggest stories, perhaps only a single significant story. And unfortunately, since we live in a fallen world that single story is often a negative one.

A death of a loved one. A battle with an addiction. A struggle to overcome sexual abuse.

These stories have weight, but what are we missing when we focus on only them?

Chimamanda says, "All of these stories make me who I am, but to insist on only the negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me."

Graduating college. Getting married. Why can't these stories be included among the traumatic ones that often label me? Moreover, what about the story where I decided that this life won't be all I'll ever see? The one where I decided to believe in a certain Savior to set me free?

Chimamanda goes on to say, "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story."

What if a history of xyz was the only story you ever heard about me?

"The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar."

The truth is, while we may not all experience the same pain, we are more alike than many of us think. We are all sinners and live in a sinful world. No one leaves this life apart from knowing sin, pain, and grief among many other emotions and feelings.

The danger of a single story is setting ourselves or others apart as better or worse due to past pain and/or present sufferings. The danger of a single story is reducing ourselves to only this pain and suffering.

But the beauty of a believer's certain single story is the following: We as believers are all made new in Him. We will all one day be reunited in a much better place, a place where we will share the same (wonderful) story for all eternity.