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Your best story.

Your best stories, the ones you will tell around the campfire for years.

The stories that will shape and define who you are.

The ones you will point back to as defining moments, they have a secret.

Want to know it?

Your best stories are often the ones that feel the worst when you are actually in them.

We tend to want safe epic stories. We want there to be risk, but not too much. We want things to be dangerous, but never really out of our control. We want the outcome to be up for grabs, but not completely out of our reach.

That is not how life works.

Life invites you to risk. To be dangerous. To court disaster in the name of doing the right thing.

And that won’t feel good. It won’t always feel smart or happy.

The best stories sometimes feel the worst, but the second secret is that that feeling is not forever.

It passes. It is a moment, a season, something temporary.

And what it leaves in its’ wake is the best story.

Don’t stop living them just because they hurt at first.

About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff

47 Comments

  1. “I learned and lived the most during that season of ridonculous comfort and security,” said no one ever.

    What is story without conflict?

  2. There seems to be a tension when it comes to telling these best stories (especially when they’re about heavy stuff like overcoming adversity or facing mortality): how do you tell them without overwhelming people? And how do you make the story less about you, and more about helping them? This is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. I feel like I have an above-average amount of those stories to tell, but because they’re so heavy, it feels like no one wants to deal with them.

    • Matthew, when I say I can only imagine how that feels, I’m sincere. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum, where those stories are few and far between. I always feel like an imposter when I try to challenge people to live better stories. So KNOW that your perspective is needed. It’s essential for the metanarrative to take shape.

      • I used to feel like this, like I had no good stories. My life was TOO good. I sometimes sat around waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well…now I’m in the middle of what may be my best story yet someday, but it hurts like hell. I can’t tell it to anyone at the moment, and I’m honestly not sure if I will be able to later. Maybe. Hopefully.

        Is a great story worth having/telling if you can only tell a few people and it helps them?

    • Anners

      I think there’s a difference between sharing your story with a listener, and asking the listener to help carry the burden of your story for you.

      It has to do with the intent of the message and the editing of the narration.

      Think of it as boundaries for stories. For more on boundaries, check out books by Henry Cloud.

      • Good words. This was a very insightful dichotomy. I’ve gotten better at catching myself when I throw the weight of the burden on the reader. It’s the difference between giving them something and taking/demanding from them (energy, attention, emotion). But sometimes the most demanding art, the stuff that takes the most from us, is also the most rewarding. I feel there is a fine line between dumping your burden on the reader and sharing/revealing that burden with the world to raise awareness for the others in the same circumstance.

  3. Garrett

    Hey, whatd’ya know?

    There’s actually a paragraph in this blog post!

    I thought those paragraph thingies had been completely replaced by magnificent, punchy one-liners. 🙂

    In all seriousness, though: thanks again for the great insights, Jon.

  4. The road to the banquet hall often takes us through the valley of the shadow of death. The road back home sometimes takes us through a pigpen. How about that? A couple of stories to show us the way.

  5. This encourages me a whole bunch. A few years back I ran a gov’t funded scholarship program at a major university for 36 Middle Easterners brought here with hopes of Masters degrees. Two thirds returned home in shame because the program was designed to secure federal funding, but not insure their success with initial English studies. I didn’t know this till I took the job, and worked hard to see necessary changes made. Due to political interests above me, my attempts weren’t welcomed and the handwriting on the wall told me it was time to resign. It was so hard to be unemployed! But I knew I did the right thing going after what was right verses acquiescing just to have a job. The group knew I was fighting for them too, and are still Facebook friends from half way around the world.

  6. Justin Gillebo

    Super encouraging Jon, thank you for this–really needed it this morning!

  7. Jon Levesque

    All of my stories with the most impact, have the most impact cause they were the most painful times.

    Keep up the awesome Jon!

  8. And that moment – right before we hit send or publish or we break the light conversation with the hard story — is like an eternity.

    But when we speak it, write it, tell it — hope always shows up!

    Great post Jon!

  9. Angie

    The best stories about adversity boil down to something I was told in the worst situation in my life. “God not only says “yes” or “no” to a prayer. Sometimes His answer is “not right now.” Turns out that I am so thankful for MY unanswered prayer, and that God gave me what was best in His Way and in His timing. That has been the best turning point of my life.

  10. HeatherEV

    This is so true. My worst moments are ones I am learning to turn around and use to help others. And it’s amazing that the things I could not understand while going through them are now the things I use to understand others where they’re at.

  11. Huong

    To tell your stories is to tell others about Jesus. Thank you for the reminder, Jon!

  12. Emily

    Thank you. I needed this reminder today. Such encouragement!

  13. Denise Moore

    I believe that nothing of significance can be accomplished from a position of safety and comfort. Emissaries and ambassadors, explorers and researchers, military personnel and missionaries, entrepreneurs and inventors – each and every one must make the decision to climb out of the safety net and take a leap into the unknown. There will be risk, danger… and pain to be had in the journey.

    But it will be a far better tale to tell than the one that starts with, “One day I was on the sofa channel surfing…

  14. This is so true!

    Brought back the memory I had when I was a teenager.

    I was in the back seat of a small car with a friend as the girl he knew was flying down the wet roads. We approached “dead man’s curve”, so named because of all the deaths. Well, we were about to be next.

    She lost control of the car and it went into a spin. Out the window I saw the guardrail approaching my side. We hit, flipped and rolled several times and ended up side down in someones yard. We all walked away alive with some bruises, even my friend who was thrown from the car.

    I remember thinking the next day, “wow, that was a lot of fun, I wouldn’t mind doing that again if it wasn’t for the possible dying part” (I was a teenager)

    So yes, great stories are the silver lining to the clouds that come into our lives.

  15. Cathryn Johnson

    My best story involves firemen, dirty underwear, gravity and two broken bones. Totally epic! It hurt worse than natural childbirth but the remembered pain fades with every retelling.

  16. Andy

    I love it because it encourages me as I go through the crap in my story. And yet I hate it because I don’t want to go through the crap and the inner four year old wants to throw multiple tantrums as I go through them. I didn’t ask for it but man it’s completely necessary and healing and good.

  17. Jeff Owens

    To paraphrase a better writer than I am, all of the best chapters of my story have made me want to throw the book away while I’m in the middle of them. Waiting on God is a recurring theme in my life. I hate the waiting, but I grow and I learn and mature and, yes, suffer in the midst of it. And it is always, always worth it.

  18. Pardon the smeared eyeliner and #allthesnot. This is exactly what I needed to hear today.

  19. Something that has impacted me and my wife greatly is making story decisions. In another post you shared that you chose your house because it allowed your kids to walk to school, and you wanted that to be part of their story.

    Thank you for helping me step into my story, and become diligent in making story-decisions!

  20. We all love an epic danger filled story when we’re reading a novel. I even love to imagine myself as the heroine in them, feeling all the drama, even the pain.

    But it’s easy to do that because I know it will end well. Or I can just put the book down.

    So in my real life I avoid the pain every chance I get. But who would want to read that story? If my life was novel, not even I would want to read it. These would be the pages I flick over, looking for the next exciting bit.

    Time to stop putting the book down at the scary bits. Time to go out and be the person I would want to be if this life was a novel and I was the heroine who knew she could do anything!

  21. Because of this community I have been able to start sharing my story. It is not pretty and it is causing some pain, but I am convinced all of this has been orchestrated by God. I am glad that He will use my mess for good. If you are interested click on my name and Jon’s site will take you there. Thank you for creating this Jon! Many of us would not be moving forward without your lead.

    • Maryalice

      Love your blog, your humor, and your writing style. Love the pictures and the captions and the history of your family. Just blew through all your posts and can’t wait until you write next. Thank you for the gift of your story.

    • bestillanlisten

      Loved reading your blog and am looking forward to seeing how God uses it and you! Thank you for your honesty and for sharing the delightful sense of humor God has given you! Godspeed.

  22. Ben Damron

    Well Said!

    Not only my best stories, but my greatest life experience came from traveling with my best friends and bandmates. We had no money, no places to stay, and no AC in a van that broke down every two days. We ended our run as a band with not much more than we started with, but WOW did God grow us!

    Meeting a bunch of crazies along the way sure did help.

  23. Sheila

    Wow, Jon! Killing me softly (check out the lyrics: that’s an old Roberta Flack song that was remade by Lauryn Hill and the Fugees I think). ANYWAY, right on with your bad self. You spoke the truth, but you know what they say about the truth don’t you? It will (eventually) set you free.
    Keep dreamin’ and keep the faith. Love always

  24. Melissa

    In the last 13 months I have had two stillborn baby boys. The first time, I was way more accepting of the fact that one day I would be able to encourage another person going through the same ordeal. The second loss has left me angry and confused. As a pastor’s wife I feel like I should have it together more than I do. The roller coaster of excitement, devastation, then cautious joy of another pregnancy, relief of making it out of the first few months, to the agony of delivering a baby that had already passed away has been gut wrenching.I long for the day when this time of our lives becomes a good story. We long for another child but I cannot go through this kind of pain again and adoption is far too expensive an option for us. I just hold tight to the 2 sons I have here on earth and pray each day for the pain to pass.

    • bestillanlisten

      Melissa, you are in my prayers that the God of all comfort will comfort your heart and mind. No, you ‘shouldn’t’ have it more together. That is devastating, and you can be honest about it and the fact that God is still good and loves you and your family. May He give you the peace that passes all understanding.

    • Wow. Your story needs to be told to give hope to a young mom longing to get past the emotional pain of loss.Please tell it.

  25. Annie Hayes

    Holy crud- you must of looked into my life right now. I have been asked to do something I have been wanting to do for sometime- my dream job, the reason why I read your books and read your emails but I am not sure it is the right time and now that it is real the unknown of leaving that comfort zone is so stinkin’ scary but it is one that could change my life forever and be the best thing to happen to me and my family and the greatest story of our lives.

    Thanks Jon- so needed this today!!

    • Annie I just lived your story and quit my job to pursue God’s best. Yesterday I realized it was 2 two years delayed. If God is asking and leading then its already passed through His hands toyours. Trust and obey. I’m hitting repeat on that myself. Blessings on your new venture.

  26. So true, but for some reason, so difficult to tell.

    Maybe we don’t want to seem vulnerable, but just by overcoming difficult “stories,” we are heroes, and people need heroes.

    As a Christian, these stories also help point to Christ, who is the real hero in our overcoming stories!

  27. Thanks for the encouragement, Jon! This really reminds me to look at adversity as an opportunity to be awesome. You rock.

  28. Something has snapped in my heart about how I will share my story because what you have shared. Thank you. Your encouragement speaks volumes to me.

  29. I’ve found while working in student ministry, my best stories are the ones I can share that help our teenagers see they are not alone. While I avoid giving them too much detail, I’ve shared with our students that I’ve made mistakes and if God can forgive me and use what I learned from my mistakes for a greater purpose; then I can forgive myself too. We all beat ourselves up too much over things that God has forgiven us for and forgotten about.

  30. patrick

    Makes sense, Jon. I guess comfortable and epic are mutually exclusive terms. Most of the stories we look back on and are ‘quotable’ in my circle of friends are ones that scared the crap out of me at the time.

    Breaking down on a road trip from PA to Indy when my buddy’s car just basically died. We had no idea how (or if) we’d get back home. Scraped together the cash to buy bus tickets (which was an adventure in itself). I can remember standing outside a Pep Boy’s in Indianapolis when my buddy GAVE his broken car to one of the clerks. Had his uncle fedex him the title that day….

    I’m sure everyone has stories that were bizarre and a little scary at the time, but I guess that’s what makes them so interesting.