June 1, 2018 Common Good

Naming The Story You Tell

When we convene as a group of strangers, it is most often our stories that maintain our separateness. To take ownership for our personal stories, and “complete” them in the midst of others is to move to a place of neighborly covenant-to co-author a new story as a group.  This is slow and honest work. While it cannot happen overnight, it is helpful to see how fruitful it can be to return to the ownership conversation as relationships deepen.

At some later point, the essential question upon which accountability hinges needs to be asked:                                                           

What have I done to contribute to the very thing I complain about or want to change?

This question, higher risk than most others, requires a great deal of trust. It can be asked only after people are connected to each other. This may be the most transforming question of all. If I do not see my part in causing the past and the present, then there is no possible way I can participate usefully in being a coauthor of the future.

Another ownership conversation is to confront our stories, the stories we talked of earlier that limit the possibility of an alternative future…                                                           

The sequence… goes like this (adapted from Werner Erhard):                                                

What is the story about this community or organization that you hear yourself most often telling? The one that you are wedded to and maybe even take your identity from?

Then ask:

What are the payoffs you receive from holding on to this story?

The payoffs are usually in the neighborhood of being right, being in control, being safe. Or not being wrong, controlled, or at risk.

And finally:

What is your attachment to this story costing you?

The cost, most often, is our sense of aliveness.

These are the questions that allow us to complete our stories. Not forget them, but complete them. The naming of the story to another, in the context we have created, can take the limiting power out of the story. This allows the story to stay in the past and creates an opening for us to move forward.



Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging(p.129-130). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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