Levels of Stories in Our New Series: Choosing Compassion over Fear

Marlena Fiol, author of Nothing Bad Between Us, details the different levels of stories that will be told in her new series “Choosing Compassion Over Fear”.

Levels of Stories in Our New Series:  Choosing Compassion over Fear  

Our Former River Property – All that Remains is a Chimney

In the coming weeks and months, my guests in our upcoming series on Choosing Compassion over Fear will be sharing their personal stories. My teacher Fr. Richard tells me that there are always three levels of stories: My story, Our story and The story.

My Story

The first is the smallest story, “my story.” It is the journey toward healing I share with you in my new book Nothing Bad Between Us. It is the story each one of my guests shares about their particular journey toward ever-increasing levels of compassion. Each of us has a personal and private story about the ways in which we’re unique and distinctive in the world, based on how we see it and how we see ourselves.

We each have many stories. For example, my story about the McKenzie River fire, which is still gobbling up lives and property in my beautiful state of Oregon, is that the river property Ed and I lived in for over sixteen years, a piece of God’s earth we poured sweat and love into, is gone. Only a chimney remains.

Our Story

The second story is a bit larger and we call it “our story.” It is the story we tell about our group, our community, or our social or ethnic tribes. Social psychologists tell us that we need our story to develop healthy attachments and to learn to trust others.

Our story about the McKenzie River fire is that entire communities that have been devastated are coming together in our common grief.

The Story

A third and largest level of story is “the story,” the universal narrative that holds together our own personal and our community’s stories alongside the stories of many different and even opposing others.

The universal story about our devastating fires is still unfolding. Too much personal grief currently clouds the meaning hidden in its depths.

  •  We need all three stories. But when I only hold my story as true, and it becomes my only reference point, it’s called narcissism.
  • And recent history has shown us the ugliness that arises when we hold “our story” as superior to or truer than another group’s version of it.
  • When we catch even just glimpses of “the” story, the one that holds all of the opposites, the contradictions and the paradoxes of our world, it guards against the self-righteous tyranny embedded in the first two levels.

My hope is that this new series, a collection of diverse personal stories, will cause each one of us to reflect on our own personal journeys, will open us to our common story, and will allow us to glimpse the universal meaning that holds all of our stories together in their many oppositions and differences.


Nothing Bad Between Us

A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness

This story differs from similar accounts of childhood domination or abuse because it tells the story of the author’s seemingly paradoxical responses to the powerful forces in my life, but doesn’t leave it at that. It sheds light on the social and religious dynamics underlying these responses, giving readers insights into and understanding of her otherwise incomprehensible choices, as she found my way back into loving relationships with her parents and the Mennonite community.