40 Sides To A Story

A Generation generally covers 40 Years of Time

Back in older times, at least. Today those in the know say a generation can be as short as 20 years. For the sake of my thought, I will stay to the older interpretation of a generation.

Every decade, year, month, week, day, and hour, can be viewed as a snippet of time. When crisscrossed by all the possible views of participants, the story of a generation can be very confusing. Twirling this way, and that, always circling some nugget of truth like electrons around a nucleus.

Your story. Their story. And the real story.

You cannot ignore the truth. But from where you stand, you may only know a portion of the situation. Very similar to how a jury acts upon their understanding of facts as presented at trial, and they determine guilt or innocence without ever knowing the full story.

Somewhere along the way, and a long, long time ago, I surmised that there are 40 sides to every story. It is almost impossible to know the whole truth, “so help you God”… But we are often called to speak the truth as we know it.

Through life we are judged by our peers, families and friends. With a slighted view of the whole story, people see only a portion of our personal story or situation, and from their standpoint they become the judge, jury, prosecutor, defender, and even the gallery of watchers. Our side of the story is the most important, because we take ownership of it. Even with the possibility of knowing the whole story, our personality, emotions, and shaded views of the situation controls how we react to the final story.

Sometimes, even the truth is not good enough. We’ve pushed ourselves deep in our personal view of the story and we can never dig out.

There is a leadership team building exercise that I’ve been a part of through the years. Take a group of people, and share a structured story or complex joke with the first person alone. Then that person whispers it to the next. Like a daisy chain, each person whispers the story to the next one in line until the last person reveals the story to the entire group.

Surprisingly, or not, the story slowly dissembles and when it reaches the end of the line it is nothing like what began. There may be a few key words, but the story has been adapted by each speaker and hearer of the whispered words. Sentences become shorter, the order is changed, and each person adapts the story to their own limited view of the facts.

This is how I feel about life in general. We never know the entire story! Thus, there is no way we can tell even a portion of our view of the story without taking things out of context. Repeating an incorrect story leaves the hearers out of sorts with the true facts. Eventually, everyone shares their own viewpoint and the original person or situation looks like a fool.

Has it ever happened to you?

Even those that eyewitness a live event will shade their version of the story based on their personal interpretation. Often, the recitation comes from their angle of sight. All comes into play. The hour of the day, the colors in play, the direction of the players. It gets almost to the point of wondering if anyone really knows what happened!

This is perhaps why, given my choice of story to share, I will always consider the Gospel of Luke first. He stated his position at the beginning, and not as an eyewitness of the story, but of one who had the skills and understanding to record accurately so that it can be compared to the story already reported.

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. (Luke 1:1-4 NKJV)

In translation: “Many have tried to narrate, even those who witnessed with their own eyes, and ministered their story to us. It seems good to me who has “perfect understanding” of all the facts to put the story into an orderly account so that you, most excellent Theophilus, can certainly know the historical fact of the story you were taught.” ~Luke

Luke continues his narrative and is the writer of the book of “Acts of the Apostles” and picks up the story with the birth of the new church.

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  (Acts 1:1-5 NKJV)

Too often we allow ourselves to dissolve in disbelief when there are many versions to a story. Who do I believe? How can I trust so many versions? Which one is the most trustworthy?

This is the rub. We all pick a different version of a story that resonates with our mind and our level of understanding.  Each of the gospels tell an accurate picture of Jesus and his ministry on earth. From their personal perspective of witness, hearing and recollection, they each recite very similar events, only they shade the story from their perspective. Some have even suggested that each writer was penning their gospel for a specific audience and emphasizing the points needed to convince the reader of the facts.

Regardless of “mistakes” one may think they find, each gospel resonates truth to me like no other recitation of any other historical event on earth. Just as the country stories (USA, Japan, UK, France, Russia, etc.) of the World Wars are shaded to their audience, I personally pick out the points that impact me at the moment of reading, or speaking at some later time.

This is not a new problem, but has been around for millennium. Take this poem into consideration, written about a story heard in India many centuries ago.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
” ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

~American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

One last thought. The poem plays upon the blindness of the participants, but chose any other sense (Hear, Taste, Touch, Smell) and the results will always be different. Everything we have to use in our arsenal of personal identity often drives the force of our resolution of the facts and stories we involve ourselves within!