Your story could be the key... (Untucked Column #15)

I like stories. They have a way of driving home a point in a way that a traditional speech, presentation, or message cannot. We tend to remember stories and analogies a lot more. I have one for you today.

There was a little boy who was born and raised in a small town. He didn’t have any siblings. He had a few friends - not many - but grew up learning how to do and enjoy many things on his own. He was always small for his age and was a year behind everyone in his class because he had skipped a grade.

He was super competitive and hated to lose. He never considered himself the smartest guy in the room but had a work ethic that drove him to be better. He graduated from high school in the top 3% of his class when he was 17 and was the valedictorian of his college class when he graduated at 21. Again, not the smartest but would outwork anyone.

Along the way, he began to be offered different speaking opportunities. He was 12 when we delivered his first message to a crowd of people. At 18, he delivered a message on TV. And it continued. Crowds never intimated him. 

The goal for the longest time was to be the best at everything. In many areas, he achieved it. Little did he realize though, that it was coming at a great cost: a price he was paying that he did not grasp until years later.

The environment he was in for a long time taught him to never show weakness. To not talk about struggles. To keep it to himself because to admit it would be a flaw, weak, and opportunities would be forfeited. Leaders needed to be strong. People needed someone steadfast to lead them. So, he kept building the persona, the façade.

So, despite the surface success he continued to experience - the inside was not healthy. He struggled. He fell short. Like everyone else, he had doubts, fears, and insecurities. He had believed the lie that vulnerability and transparency were flaws. 

Later in life, he broke. Hard. Depression. Anxiety. Not wanting to get out of bed. To the public, he seemed to always have it together. It was during this season that he began to learn how to open up. He had only done so with a handful during his entire life and even then, only in pockets. But he was challenged that if he would show people who he really was - flaws, shortcomings, weaknesses, soft-side, mess ups and all - that he would still be accepted and loved. He began to take notice of people who were in his life and how they were so transparent about their lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and he wondered if he could do likewise and still make an impact.  

It was a pain staking process because it was undoing a lifetime of mindsets, ideologies, and voices from the past. But he vowed, if he ever had another opportunity to be an influence, to stand on stages, and whatever platforms he was given that he would be different - he would be real, transparent, and use the gift he had been given to speak hope, Grace, encouragement, and second chances. That it’s ok to not be ok.  That perhaps his story could help bring freedom to those who had lived in the eye of the public but behind a mask, a shield.

He learned that being open about his struggle wouldn’t kill his chances to be successful; that admitting that he was going through a battle wouldn’t hurt his reputation; and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with showing people that he was human.

He would rather be a man on his knees, looking vulnerable praying for strength than a man on his feet living shaky because somebody might know he actually doesn’t have it all together. 

Friend, your story could be the key that unlocks someone else’s prison. Other people can find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and most effective testimony will come out of your deepest hurts. If you have been told to “buck up”, “man up” or have ever felt like less than for dealing with a pain that no one can see, it’s the same as with anyone dealing with pain that they can see. So, shame OFF of you!

This column is proof that people can change; that’s second chances exist; that Grace is real. My name is Steve Sauceda and this is my story. 

Steve Sauceda