Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Why You Should Tell the Ugly Parts of Your Story

When you tell your story, how do you talk about yourself? Are you completely honest? Really? Why not do something different? Make yourself a hero in the worst kind of way.

Great heroes sacrifice themselves, right? So do just that. Avoid the parts that make you sound amazing. Instead, focus on the broken, ugly parts of your story. In other words, write like Brennan Manning.

Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning

Take your cues from a ragamuffin

I just finished All Is Grace, a memoir by author, speaker, priest, and alcoholic Brennan Manning.

I was so engrossed in it I read nearly all of it in one sitting.

The next day, I finished it.

What struck me most about this book was not the darkness of one man’s journey. What I found compelling was his focus on the nasty bumps on the road. In many ways, it was truly a “ragamuffin memoir” — tattered and frayed in a million, dirty, clumpy pieces.

Full of self-effacing remarks and honest confessions, Brennan’s story will either give you hope, or depress you. Maybe both. But it challenged me in a weird way. The painful stories of blackouts and divorce coupled with profound spiritual epiphanies and love stories made me marvel at the complexity of life. Not just Brennan’s, but mine too.

And it made me want to tell my story in more honest ways — not as a rock star, but as a real, broken human being.

Be counter-cultural

Our culture is so image-centric and self-focused that it’s easy to think if we don’t pat ourselves on the back no one will.

But Brennan decided to be completely counter-cultural with All Is Grace. In other words, he made himself a hero in the worst kind of way. And for me, it was a breath of fresh air.

If you write a blog or a memoir or simply find yourself telling a story to a friend over coffee today, try doing this for a change.

Tell a nasty part of yourself you’d otherwise conceal. Tell something that humiliates and humbles you, and see how your audience reacts.

The truth will set you free

Writing like this may be more liberating than you realize.

At times, you will hold the keys to another’s prison. Just like when you write from the heart, your pain will become someone else’s healing balm.

And at others, you may find yourself confessing to yourself, with no one to listen to you. Regardless, you will be set free from the fear of having to impress people by telling nice lies.

You may find what Brennan discovered in his career. That there is a world full of desperate, broken people, longing to hear the honest words of another ragamuffin.

  • A beggar unashamed of his  hunger.
  • A thief unaware of his poverty.
  • A friend and addict.
  • A lover, liar, fighter and healer.

A paradox, like us all.

Go ahead: try it

Fortunately, writing ugly does a few beautiful things:

  1. It connects with the audience. When you openly share your faults, people will listen. Everyone can identify with failure and disappointment.
  2. It humanizes you. Despite what we see in movies, we don’t want a hero that is completely unlike us. We want someone who is real. That is someone we will pay attention to — not a superhuman.
  3. It humbles you. Face it: we writers could stand to be brought low once in awhile. We all live with weird neuroses, but we also battle internal arrogance. Disciplining yourself to air your dirty laundry kills haughtiness.

In the end, you can be a hero in one of two ways. You can be larger than life. Or you can be real. The difference is whether you’re willing to be honest, where you will write the ugly parts.

If this idea resonates with you, I suggest you pick up Brennan’s new book: All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.

Was there a time when you told an ugly part of your story? How did people react? Share in the comments.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • This is right up my alley, Jeff. If all we write about is our successes, we’ll quickly bore readers and (what’s worse) not do our complete self justice. It’s that paradox what makes us, complex human beings, interesting. Not just the good stuff, but not only our failures either. It’s writing about all that we are. 

    Thanks for attaching a contest to this post as well. Nice gesture!

  • NickZ

    I love this one, too. The moment you start seeing yourself as you really are, you stop wasting your energy on pretending to be somebody else. It requires so much strength to keep the illusion alive and once you release yourself from that imposed obligation, you feel relieved and free, and learn to accept that you are a human being after all – like everyone else. And that is great! Now you can accomplish real deeds.
    Being a writer means that you tell the truth about life and world. And a most beautiful truth is that we all are human beings with weaknesses and faults and that the only purpose of our lives is to improve ourselves as individuals and a species.  And such a joy if you find a way to do it!
    Thank you!  

    • I love that, Nick — the moment we start seeing ourselves as we are we stop wasting energy pretending we’re someone else. Brilliantly said. Pretense can be so exhausting. It’s so much more freeing to be our broken selves… however scary that seems.

  • Patricia W Hunter

    Amen!!! I discovered years ago that the people who truly minister to me are the ones who will honestly share their failures. My husband and I have been given multiple opportunities to tell our redemptive story in churches, retreats and small groups. Some people are amazed that we are willing to be so vulnerable. They think we are being courageous. Truth is, we have experienced the freedom that comes from being open and honest with our “ugliness”. Scripture tells us to comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted. We often think of the pain and suffering that has been inflicted on us when we look at that scripture, but I believe it means anything in our lives that brought us pain…even if we did it to ourselves.  

  • Matt Keller


    I really appreciated your post today. I am a pastor, speaker, author and coach who works with leaders across the country and one of the things we are constantly trying to get leaders to understand is the power of vulnerability.

    I personally went through some very dark days of spiritual and emotional abuse in my early 20’s and am alway blown away at how God uses our hurt and pain and vulnerability to connect with someone else’s heart that’s also been wounded by a spiritual leader.

    We talk often of how God will use our pain as our platform if we will let him. That’s a scary thing at first, but what we have discovered is that it is also one of the most rewarding things ever as well.

    I’ve been following for a while now and appreciate all you’re doing. Keep writing and keep being vulnerable. Thanks for your honesty.

    Matt Keller

    • thanks for the comment and kind words, Matt.

  • I have a hard time sharing the ugly parts of my story. I think a lot of it stems from growing up in the small town south. There is this pressure to live picture perfect, at least on the outside. And when you’ve been burned by the small town rumor mill that shows no grace it makes it harder.
    I have learned though that when I share something like I did on my blog yesterday (it was about my struggle to not judge by appearances) it resonates with so many.

    • Amy, this is true. Living in the South for the past five years, I’ve seen this. There is, unfortunately, a veneer to southern living (for some) that needs to be overcome, if you’re going to share some of your brokenness with the world. Thanks for being brave. Keep it up. People are watching and listening and being encouraged.

  • Loved the book too. Easy, quick read that it will affect your soul. 

    One of the reasons that the ugly truth Manning tells works so well is because it is consistent with what else he has written. “All is Grace” is a an expression of his own need of the Ragamuffin Gospel. 

  • This is so true for a blog about mental health that I’ll be launching later this year.  So many gurus come across as having all the answers or essentially overcome all the major challenges in life that I think readers want to hear the warts and all so they can relate to a real person.

    • Sounds interesting.  I’ll look forward to reading more about this.

    • very interesting, Todd! i think you’re right about the “gurus.”

  • I participate in a ministry called Celebrate Recovery. I recently gave my testimony and shared all the ugly (and some good) in my life. People reacted with hugs, acceptance, and thanks for sharing my story.

    • Jamie, our old church had a Celebrate Recovery group that met every week. I love the life change that happens there. It’s a great group!

      • Yes, it is. I love that it is based on what you wrote about: rigorous honesty. It’s refreshing.

    • Marccannon

      That’s exactly where I started my recovery. And I celebrate it every day! I finished my first step study in July and I can honestly tell you that is one of the hardest yet most gratifying things I’ve ever purposefully gone through. I learned a lot about myself, my past, my relationships and my God. Our church has a large CR and it’s truly a blessing for countless people! 

      Sorry to butt in. Not every day that I see people talking about CR that’s not the one I’m affiliated with.  Thanks for letting me share 🙂 

  • I’ve shared honestly about some of my weaknesses/struggles but haven’t been able to write about some of the most difficult because they involve other people or would show someone else in a bad light. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do that. Still trying to figure out how to do that without dishonoring others…

    Thanks for the chance to win this book! 

    • That’s tough, Cheryl, and you’re right to pause before dishonoring loved ones. A great example is Brennan himself. If you read All Is Grace, you’ll see how much he focuses on his own brokenness and is intentional about not talking about others. Were others at fault in some of the stories? Sure. Did he talk much about that. Absolutely not. We can only own what we’re responsible for, and I think that in many ways, that is what we writers must do when we authentically tell our stories. Otherwise, it can be perceived as blame-shifting.

  • Blairjohn

    On manistry month in Thailand last year in May each of us each night shared our testimony to the guys.  I opened about when I was in seminary studying and also leading worship at a church how I had a moral failure but how God rescued me in the moment.  But i still looked back at that moment with shame because of what I was doing and stood for, but with no one looking I did something wrong.  But I never really forgave myself for it.  They guys all huddled around me and prayed for me and allowed me to release that.  It’s easy that we assume guys even in spiritual leadership can seem “immune” from attacks but it’s untrue.  They told me that it wasn’t who I am and that I should feel no shame anymore and the Lord forgives and was rescued.  But it was just being in that moment that I allowed that brought me shame.  I opened it up to them as scared as I was and received grace back, just like Brennan. 

  • I used to share a story about how I lost in an academic competition back in high school because of a series of negative choices I made. It wasn’t entirely a sad ending, in fact it had a good ending, with “a lesson learned” kind of feel to it. I share how my ugly side got me in trouble, and went to telling that realizing and admitting the wrong I did,  gave me an opportunity to make things right. Telling this story spurs the person I share it with to tell me his/her own story that is similar to my experience. 🙂

  • Elizabeth Young

    Mondays are known as Manic Mondays on my blog as we look at different mental health disorders. On many occasions I have self disclosed about my experience with certain disorders and found it does exactly as you describe: When I am honest people feel they can be honest, they see me as I am, another broken believer, and it keeps me where I should be – humbled.

  • Just yesterday, i posted on our blog an ugly part of my story.  I shared about the day I chose to stop my slow suicide with drugs and alcohol.  The responses were encouraging and humbling. That God could use my story over the last 7 years to be an inspiration for others to face their greatest life challenges, is a huge reward.  I am honored to share EVERY part of my story!


    • amazing. thanks for your vulnerability and bravery, Tammy!

  • I have shared many things about being broken and stretched on my blog.  But the toughest thing they I’ve shared as been related to dealing with mental health challenges in my family.  As I’ve shared some of these details, it’s been amazing to see doors opened and healing happening.

  • Right on, Jeff! Sharing all the messed up and ugly stuff is freeing for both reader and writer! And not only is it freeing, but it also helps bring true and lasting healing to those dark areas. 

  • AlisonH

    I used to write for an online magazine and one month I wrote openly about my mistakes in a past relationship…the response was incredible. Women responded with similar stories or words of encouragement. The best response was from my friends and family who didn’t know that part of my story. It brought us closer and into a more honest relationship.

    • interesting how something like the Internet (or a stage or a book) can bring us closer to those nearest us. amazing.

  • Jenny

    I’ve had reactions both positive and negative to my story.  In the beginning, I would share my story with anyone who would listen. But experience has taught me to be a little more careful when doing so.  The friends I’ve told have become closer because of it.  They know me and I know them.  I think it’s nice for people to know that someone else has been through something hard and has come out the other side.  It’s the hope of the overcomer we all need to hear and be encouraged by. 

    • i think it’s important to have wisdom. thanks for sharing, Jenny. not everyone needs to know all our gritty details; i am impressed by how open Brennan was with his story. To be fair, though, it took him about 70 years to get to that point. 😉

      • Anonymous

        I’m always encouraged (oddly) when people start getting real at later stages of their lives. It’s never too late! >;<

  • Shelly

    Yes, I have done this.  When I hit publish I let it all go, reputation and what others think about me. It does however feel wierd when someone walks up to me in the grocery store and says they read my blog and then I remember what I wrote and try not to get red faced!  Love Brennan Manning and will have to get this book . . .unless I get it from you first!

    • thanks, shelly. it’s a good one. i rarely read books in one sitting so that’s saying something.

  • mariaannawitt

    I have a few blog posts I’ve written that touch on the ugliness, but I’ve never gotten the courage to post them. I’ve always carefully selected which people I’ll share these stories with, and the idea of putting them out there in public where I can’t guarantee they’ll be received with kindness is terrifying. But you’ve given me something to think about, Jeff, which is why I’m commenting here.

    • There is certainly wisdom to this, but it may be worth testing the waters some by releasing one of those stories. Of course, you need to ask yourself what’s motivating you. Are you holding back because you’re afraid of what people might think of you? If so, then release the story. Or are you worried about talking badly about others and shaming those who are a part of your story? If so, then there may be good cause for hesitation (but sometimes, even then, we need to tell our stories). I hope to read some of yours!

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  • in college I went overseas with a team of students, and during the trip ended up sharing some of the ugliest parts of my story with the girls on the team. being vulnerable with each other made us *so* much stronger.

  • I’ve gotten mixed reactions to sharing ugly parts of my story. But for the most part I’ve found it to give people the gift of going second. It frees them up to be honest about their own struggles and weaknesses and doubts. Making someone else feel comfortable enough to be real is certainly worth the discomfort of baring my real heart….

  • I went to a Christian grammar school and was invited to share my testimony at 8th grade graduation.  I shared about my depression and suicidal ideation prior to accepting Christ just a few months before graduating.  I didn’t know how people would respond- this was, after all, a cliquey rich Christian school (my parents sacrificed to send me there) and it was the mid-90s and depression and suicide were even more heavily stigmatized than they are now.  I received some positive, encouraging feedback.  I’ve continued to share that journey since then, including having a piece in Alise Wright’s compilation Not Alone, a collection of stories on depression.

  • It is in fear and trembling that you share parts of your story, but usually they have huge impact. Brennan Manning is a mentor in this one! Truly embracing all of your past brings freedom to the point that it enhances your message. My wife has seen this even more than me. I included her story of redemption in my book. Some called that bold. It was not a difficult decision, it has just become part of our story.

  • I write a blog about my battle with colon cancer and learning to live with a colostomy.  I wrote two post about living with a colostomy and some of the phobias one deals with … no doubt an ugly topic.  What I was amazed by was that in sharing this aspect of life helped me connect with others enduring the same thing.  So often we think we are the only ones dealing with a problem or issue … and that’s just not the case.  I found my honesty encouraged others and encouraged those with colostomies to reach out and encourage me.  A good question Jeff … I’m now off to tweet about the give-away.  Bernie

  • Thank you for writing this.  I have written this way on my Conniethoughts blog since day 1 and it has humbled me and made me feel so exposed.  Yet, those have been the blogs that have impacted people the most.  My most “inspiring” writings couldn’t compare to the response I’ve had from the ones I’ve opened my inner parts for all to see.  Others, who felt they were the only ones didn’t feel so alone any more.  And the best part is through it, I’ve made some amazing friendships with people I can now journey with.

  • You’re a broken human being? How so? 

    Personally, I’ve found that writing “ugly” about myself triggers an impulse in people to come back at me with platitudious pep talk intended to be consoling, which I find highly annoying, well-intentioned as it may be. 

    For instance, if I discuss my problems, someone inevitably responds by pointing out that millions of other people have bigger problems, such as the starving children in Somalia, and that I should try and put things in perspective. Drives me crazy.

    The danger of writing “ugly,” is that it tends to sound like one is fishing for encouragement, unless the ugly part is either of exceptional literary quality on account of sheer eloquence or wittiness, or unless it serves as a useful lead-in to a point  on a subject other than oneself. 

    I think I’ve ultimately deleted every single post on my blog that in any way discussed my personal situation. Very hard to do without coming across as “whiny.”

    • I HATE that comeback – the whole “well, you’re not so bad off” thing. I wrote about how stupid it is, actually, if you’re interested. It’s called “My pain doesn’t invalidate yours.

      I know what you mean about sounding whiny. I often feel that I do. But I write the ugly mostly to get it out of my system, out in the light where I can see it and so can others (though I’d still write if no one read). It helps me heal better.

      Nevertheless – what’s good for me may not be good for you, and vice versa. Gotta love diversity 🙂

      • Well, I suppose if you blog every day and throw in an occasional post about yourself, it’s not so bad. But I’m such a lazy-ass blogger, if I post once a month and that one post deals with my personal struggles, it makes me look as if I can’t think of anything else to write about.

    • “The danger of writing “ugly,” is that it tends to sound like one is
      fishing for encouragement, unless the ugly part is either of exceptional
      literary quality on account of sheer eloquence or wittiness, or unless
      it serves as a useful lead-in to a point  on a subject other than

      Great point.  I struggle with self-indulgence in my writing … this helps me get more clear about how I’d like to blog in the future.  Thank you. 

      • I think there is an art to it. It shouldn’t sound like whining.

        • I did it. I just wrote and published a post about myself, about a recent dream I had. It’s ugly. 

  • I tell ugly parts of my story all the time. It helps people to realize that it’s ok to be human. To have mistakes. To fail. To overcome. Transparency is respected. I’m yet to receive criticism from a reader for being too open. When I do receive some, I’ll know I’m doing exactly what God wants. 

  • Anonymous

    I feel like I have made a lifestyle out of being REAL with my story and sometimes the response it awesome and other time, I wished I hadn’t been so raw. But I will still tell my story. Thanks for the suggestion of this book. It is the 2nd time in a week, I have heard someone mention its deep soul perusal. I think I would love to read it!!

  • I’ve been writing my story over at my blog (here’s a direct link if you’re interested). My story involves sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse, along with stupid decisions I’ve made over the course of my life (such as falling in love with a married man, having an emotional fling with my atheist professor, and sleeping with my now-husband before we were married and subsequently getting kicked out of our conservative Christian college). The reactions have been so varied. Though honestly, to my utter shock and encouragement, there has only been one person to consistently tear me down – and when he did, my other readers stood up for me admirably and heart-warmingly. In confessing my hesitancy to continue with my story to the points of my deepest shame, people flocked around me with love and encouragement. Things that have been keeping me spiritually in a dark, evil place for 3 years are coming to light…and starting to heal. Having grown up conservatively (and legalistically in some ways) this healing is so precious to me…and wouldn’t have happened if I’d continued to hold onto my sin and fear and doubt and pain, refusing to allow others to reach into my life and help me.

  • dan snyder

    despite all my nervousness and shame, i recently shared, in a mens group, how i was sexually assaulted as a child and in college.  it was an amazing experience and i felt god’s grace in a tangible way like never before.  it’s not my fault.  god is good.  

  • I’ve shared a lot of negative things that have been happening in life and the most common response is that people walk away and never speak to me again and/or make it obvious they don’t want to be around me.  Now, for every 3 or 4 of them I do find one person who is helped by my story and those are the people I focus on…but they’re the exception rather than the rule most times.  I find people like to play a role like they want to be real and want to be around people who are real but in the end they don’t want the real thing.  It’s like they want the Sam’s Club Cola version of it rather than actual Pepsi.

    • Joan

      Its my perspective that 4 out of 4 were given opportunity to receive something, and weren’t sure how to respond. Even the evidence that they walked away could be the proof that they were nudged, even just a tiny bit stirred… finding ways to adjust the ‘dose’ of information~ balanced with hope is an experiment that I am having fun with. Separating my needs from theirs can be a very intricate process, pressing on…  my acceptance and identity rooted in something solid, a journey anchored in truth…   

  • Mariel Boomgaardt

    How do you write about your faults and sound honest? 

    I would find it hard to write openly about my faults without writing about how I came to realize them, and then wouldn’t that sound like an excuse. How do you be rid of shame without sounding pompous? 
    I guess those are the skills of an excellent writer

  • Marccannon

    For years and years I struggled with addiction. But not chemical or physical addictions by nature. I struggled with thriving on mental and emotional anguish and honestly couldn’t begin to tell you why. Something about the pain of it all I was seeking.  This was a season of my life that lasted almost 20 years and manifested itself into severe anxiety and depression. On the outside I appeared to be an emotionally stable and jolly fellow. But on the inside I was so twisted in soul it was hard for me to think straight. My story is a continual story of recovery and I still struggle with negativity to this very day.  You guessed it, I’m never drinking from a glass that’s half full. However, I started attending a church about a year ago and I have become very involved and I have grown leaps and bounds spiritually. To make a long story short I began leading a ‘Growth Group’ on small business and our faith. The first week I decided to tell my testimony and there was nothing positive about it…At least not until I reached the end. I spoke of my alcohol abuse, my failed relationships, failed businesses and my almost deadly taste for emotional pain. Gary Allen sings a song “I Get Off on the Pain”. That was my theme song.  When I got done telling my story you could have heard a pin drop in a basketball arena.  Once I was through sharing it gave the other members in my group the confidence to tell their story and what struggles they have.  When the group was over one gentleman approached me and said that he would have never guessed that I had an issue at all from my outside exterior and that he related with me on so many levels. I’ve shared my story more than once and usually get similar reactions. But the one thing that sharing the “Bad Stuff” does is it makes you real and gives those you tell the ability to relate on more than just a surface level. It also breaks down barriers and gives you a more intimate look inside someone’s soul.  I think that’s where we all should be. 

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this page. Thank you for letting me share. And I do apologize for any grammar and spelling mistakes lol Not my strong suit 

  • Godsplumbline

    I did tell the ugly part with great fear and to my great joy it has been positive b/c it tends to fall into restoration with our fathers – the part that makes me really sad….when people say, I wish I would have tried sooner to fix the relationship b/c now my dad is gone and I will never hear the words I needed him to say 

  • Yeah.  I share the ugly parts on occasion.  I strive to be totally transparent, especially in my accountability relationships.  Sometimes it’s tough, but the benefit has been that it’s now easier to admit whem I’ve screwed up.

  • A couple of years ago in a creative nonfiction writing class, my professor urged me to put more at stake in my memoir piece. Honestly, I argued with her about it because it was something I was unwilling to confess. The final draft, when I finally let down my guard and admitted my brokenness, was where the healing began to take place. And others related to the very human me in the story.

    I’m the first to admit my flaws: I’m often unorganized and scattered, vain and self-centered, quick-tempered and too willing to burn bridges. But it’s the truly ugly parts that I hold close and never allow anyone to see. The truth is that we all have them, and it’s those ugly bits that make us so beautiful as humans.

    I’m so excited to read Brennan’s memoir. The Ragamuffin Gospel changed my life, and I don’t see why his new book will be any different. Great post.

  • Jacinda

    I recently shared the “darkest,” ugliest part of my story with my younger brother, and it transformed his perspective of me. I had not realized the extent of which he viewed me as the “perfect” child until I was transparent about my past hurts, mistakes. Through sharing my deepest struggles, we were able to relate to each other at a whole new level. Thanks for posting this Jeff. This blog is encouraging me to move forward in sharing the “ugly” parts of my story more. I’m sharing my testimony next week at a small group for high school girls.

  • Jim Martin

    Jeff, you’ve written a great post.  I also just finished Brennan Manning’s new book.  There is something about his transparency that is very, very engaging. 

  • This is the second review that I’ve read that’s praised the memoir for it’s “realness.” Definitely want to give it a read.

  • Many times when I speak on the topic of my 1st published book, I do tell some ugly parts but in a funny way. People laugh with me as I make fun of those ugly parts of my story.

  • Haidar Afandi

    I confessed about myself through Facebook’s notes app. I just went through a break up about a month back and I appeared ok and emotionally stable until one thing triggered me to confessed about myself to the world, to the 700 friends that I had on facebook and to someone I admired. It didn’t matter how many people would read it and find me disgusting and obsolete but I just had to had a literal diarrhoea of words and honestly I felt good releasing my personal story about my encounters with men. To much surprise, many feedbacks came from men themselves who were my friends, showing concern and they personally told me that I had reached a boiling point and learn to forgive myself. It felt beautiful and enlightening. I guess the thing about writing is to be brutally yet truthfully honest. The power play of words which crafts into a story is no longer just a piece of art, but it is art from the heart. That’s the power of writing. =)

  • Yanne Menezes

    I’ve shared an obscure time of my life with my boyfriend this year. It was something I was extremely and unhelpfully ashamed of telling anyone, especially him, but I reached a point in our relationship that I wouldn’t feel comfortable hiding it from him anymore. I felt really bad, as if I was the dirtiest person in the whole world, but it ended up ok. I actually think that was the best thing I did for us (me and my boyfriend). 

  • Anonymous

    I tell bits and pieces of my story in my blog and I have a tendency to lean more towards my faults and failures.  But I never end it there, it always ends in victory or a challenge to be better.  I have always felt that people don’t typically want to read person stories about the perfection of others, but how we are all human, broken and complex.  That being said, people want to read stories of hope as well.  We want to be encouraged to push through the black days, trusting that there is ultimately a better ending for us us.  The blog that I got the most reaction from was one where I told a story about a broken girl, I told it from my perspective today as though I knew her.  Everyone who read it, I hope, understood that it was me.  But it was a very real post.  It wasn’t easy and it was embarassing, which is probably why I told it the way I did.  There are darker parts of my past that I’m not quite open to sharing, but I’m getting there because I know that they are important.

  • Most people want to talk about their success.  is understandable there is a desire to look good to others, even if we do not know these people.

    But you’re 100% right, it is so much better when people can be forthright and honest and even talk about missteps and personal failures. It makes the narrative so much more personal and human and when successes happen, it makes them so much more powerful.

  • I shared my story publicly for the first time 2 summers ago and it was a life-changing experience…the truth personally setting me free, but also others being set free too. It was only when I was willing to take the risk of being vulnerable and honest, that I was able to be really used by God. He used my story to help others feel safe and talk about their story, and the healing that came for both me and others as a result, was so worth the risk. Thank you for this encouragement for us to be the broken fragments that reflect Him through our story.

  • Adriana Willey

    thank you. i needed this today.  i am adopted and am being interviewed about it for a video today, which will be shown to my entire community – the people i have to live with – on sunday.  every time i start to prepare i find myself fleeing, wanting to settle for you “you know it was great. go adopt an orphan”. but my story is worth more than that. my Voice has more things to say than the pat inspirational answers. i just have to get the courage to say it.  so thank you for this.  you always get me right where i bleed.

    • Joan

      I’m proud of you for stepping out to share your story. You will inevitably inspire!

      • Adriana Willey

        thank you joanlbrown. this encouraged me.

    • You’ve taken a brave step towards freedom, and your honesty confounds me, but in a good way, tells me it’s just so beautiful when you share your struggles.God bless 🙂 🙂

  • Joanlbrown

    I tell the good, the bad and the ugly… however transparent I am, I leave each conversation, each prayer, each inner dialogue with hope ~ somehow. It takes practice. 
    Many times I am faced with a silent stare, but I perceive that my friend, family member, acquaintance leaves with something to think about, and something to hold on to. I say it like this, ” My life is a story, and it is a unique story, unique to me and beautiful. Your life is a story as well. Some of the chapters in my story are ugly, and painful, however, the ugly parts create a contrast that is revealed in the beauty of my perspective. Life is mostly about perspective, isn’t it? If you believe that, you will see the ugly chapters as just that… a chapter in your life story. There are many more chapters yet to write. We can hope in the chapters to come and rather than avoid pain, use it, embrace it~ somehow, endure through it and develop strength that inspires beauty.” 

  • Anon.

    Great post, Jeff; thank you. 

    Was there a time when I told the ugly part of my story? Yes. I seem to be telling the ugly part of my story repeatedly to anyone who will listen. Somehow, talking about the pain – writing about the pain – has been a part of going through the pain. Or maybe the pain is all I have that connects me to what is lost. 

    I’ll be specific: I cheated on my devoted partner with an amazing genius. I spent nearly 10 secret weeks falling deeply in love with this new man, only to have him die a few months after I met him. After a few more months of shocked grief, I confessed to my partner and he did not leave me. We are reconciling. I’m too blown away by the grace to experience it yet.

    On top of this, the pain of loss has stripped my faith; or my faith is undergoing such a radical transformation that it is hidden away where I can’t feel it, or use it, the way I used to.

    It’s if this mourning is a cavernous tunnel, and rather than keeping my nose down and running to the other side, I’m strolling, looking, smelling, feeling every inch, many days sitting and digging at the metaphorical ground. Because that’s where his body is.  And I don’t want to get through the tunnel because it may close behind me and I’ll lose my love forever.

    I have told all of this ugliness to most people I know – including my pastor.  I said that the Ash Wednesday service looked like performance art – a show I was completely removed from. How did he react? He spoke loving words. Everyone has. Once upon a time I thought only Jesus would really love a woman like me. Telling my ugliness taught me that I was wrong.

    • Guest

      “Guest” here again following up to what I just wrote — I understand it’s odd that I’m posting anonymously when the point of the topic is to BE transparent, to be open …. Normally when I share my story online, with my name at my blog, I’m not so explicit about the events.  I do feel concerned with my partner’s feelings; it’s a balancing act between wanting to share authentically and wanting to protect him as much as possible (after my earlier actions have been so damaging). 

  • I’ve had reactions on both ends of the spectrum.  One of the most painful times in my life was when my parents, both church leaders, divorced.  While not sharing the nitty gritty details of their life and their decisions in my writing, I simply shared the details of how deeply it affected me…still affects me today.  Anytime I do this, some family members basically become unglued.   Although I’m only sharing my part in the story (how it affects me – my feelings, my emotions, how I have processed) they get angry.  Far more people comment and write me e-mails that tell me what I’ve said has made a huge difference for them.  But I always wonder, will the backlash I’m going to face for writing this be worth it?

  • Lesley Myrick

    Hey Jeff, this article couldn’t have come at a better time. This week, I’ve written a couple times on my blog about an ugly part of my story – about feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and failing. Here are the posts:
    So far,  I haven’t heard any responses on these specifically…but in the past when I’ve shared about my brokenness, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I think it’s a breath of fresh air when people are willing to be vulnerable.

  • I’m a big fan of telling the ugly parts.  It’s the honesty that people connect to, look for.  I don’t care much for authors that make me guess about the kinds of vague trials they had to go through.  Tell me the dirty, nasty, sad, tragic, true story.  It’s nothing if not refreshingly honest.

  • annie p

    Brennan Manning has been my favorite author for years, and I couldn’t agree with you more about his writing.  His honesty is audacious; his humility humbles me.  I learn and grow every time I read him, and I pick up his books over and over again.  You’re right…we should all write like this.  

  • Sara Kelm

    I’ve found that sharing my story redeems those ugly parts and enhances the beautiful parts.  When talking with someone who really listens and cares about me, he/she can affirm how those ugly parts have shaped my journey and also how God has used the ugliness to create beauty.  An outside perspective can be refreshing and hope-giving.

  • Ryan

    My wife and I stood before 80 church leaders and told our story. It was raw, honest, transparent, and at times, even freeing. 99% of the people embraced us, when we were done, with love. They came with empathy and some even had the same story. But I will never forget the one guy coming up to me in a corner of the room and whispering “so….you’ve been lying to me all this time”?
    The cool thing is even though this is the one that sticks out the most, it isn’t the most memorable….the people embracing my wife and myself really changed things for me in a new grasp of grace.

  • Linds

    Yes – and some friends have stepped back and other taken that step forwards. It has been a real learning curve. In England, being “real” is not something you see often, so that makes it so much harder – to be the one who sheds the cloak and reveals the brokenness. But thanks for writing this. It is making my head hurt, just thinking about what I do next. In a good way.

  • On Sunday, I preached and opened with three confessions. 1) I was a bed-wetter through middle school. 2) I made a zero on a major philosophy test in seminary. 3) I root for the Cowboys. Preaching in Packer country, I found the 3rd most humbling (heck, after the Eagle game, it’s humiliating).

    People responded well and I believe the confessions paved the way for the rest of the message to get through.

  • Callestad

    From childhood, I’ve always desired to put my best foot forward, believing that if people saw the ugly I’d lose them before I’d even begun to have a friendship with them. I’ve found, however, that when I share those parts of me I don’t find lovable, it’s then that I find the closeness for which I long desperately. It is through the love of God’s people that I can see His forgiveness and learn to accept the imperfect parts.

  • Purpleambrosia

    I always thought telling my story would make me ashamed but just this week I told a group of my girls that I lead in a bible study about my past. I didn’t have to go into major details in order to help them get the picture. But as we were doing this, I felt freedom and the other girls were able to share parts of their painful past too. It was great! We were all able to be much more authentic once I was able to break the ice with my ugliness. 

  • It was interesting the reaction I got when I shared part of my ‘ugly’. Some people wanted to keep me in a high and lofty place that I was not comfortable with. Others suddenly became more connected with me, realised I had dust under the toenails, that I was like them. 

    My Heart was made more vulnerable to their response, and the response was shared community. Hmm, nice!

    Here’s an exercise that helped me discover something about the importance of ‘Ugly’.

    I was sitting in a church auditorium one Sunday morning and the pastor was teaching away, my mind was drifting around a million thoughts when I decided to just watch peoples reactions to what was being said. Mostly peoples heads were down looking at the floor or at the head in front of them. Boring, boring, dull and boring. 

    That was until he shared something of his own journey, an ‘ugly’ appeared on the stage and everyone’s heads lifted and engaged. He held them for that brief moment and a little longer afterward, but eventually they went back to ‘sermon somnia’.  

    Next time you are feeling the wafts of  ‘sermon somnia’ drifting in, try it out.

    Thanks for the great post Jeff

  • Years ago, I shared for the first time with a group of woman about how I was molested when I was five. It was not an easy thing to do, as I was just realizing that it had happened and all the memories were very fresh. It ended up being a time of confession, tears, and healing, others admitting the shame that had kept them quiet for so long. I was so glad I chose to be honest even when it was incredibly painful. We all just want to know we are not alone.

    • you, my friend, are a hero. can’t wait to see what big things are in store for you in the future.

  • TorConstantino

    Jeff, great review and I just downloaded the Kindle version – thanks for the heads up! I can’t wait to read it!

    • thanks, Tor. enjoy! warning: it will suck you in!

  • Alice5403

    I agree that sharing some of the ugly stuff is important. I’ve had mixed reactions on the past but generally people are very encouraging and most often really relate to my “human-ness”  I’ve always been able to tell my story but so often its been to put myself in a better light so I felt comfortable.. I’ve learned to be more real as I get older and gradually be less anxious about what others will think or say. I’m gradually opening up on my blog, bit by bit. Thanks for the encouragement Jeff. 

  • Anonymous

    I love this post!  One of the hardest challenges is finding the strength to write even on my bad days.  I live with the fear that others may read and see me vulnerable.  I am finding that its through those posts that others are finding comfort.  I have screwed up so bad and the fact that God can still use me in spite of it, blows my mind.  The idea of it fuels me each new day. 

  • I shared part of my ugly earlier this year when God was helping me make some changes in my life.  I got several shocked reactions but also love…hugs and tears and several I wish I had knowns.  It is one of the scariest things I have done yet now I look back on it and see the beauty of telling the ugly.  It’s still scary to do….but I am learning so worth it.

    • thanks for sharing, Christy. this is anything but safe.

  • Patricia Antolino

    When I began telling my story as a survivor of childhood abuse, doors started opening for me, life began to become clearer, I felt more available to myself and to others.  Twenty years later, I don’t identify any longer as a “survivor.”  Something shifted ~ the pain, the humiliation, the anger, the fear all came together into what has made me more authentic.  If it is appropriate in a conversation to share my story now whether to explain where I’ve come from or a way to connect more with the person I am with, I don’t hold back.  Being authentic takes a lot of courage and helps heal ourselves, those close to us and, who knows, maybe even some element of society.

  • Jeff, thanks so much for writing this!  I have been hearing great things about All Is Grace for a while now and have it on my list.  This reminder has me pumped to get a hold of a copy and move it to the top!
    I have been sharing ugly parts of my story for about two years now and have found that it has helped me tremendously with healing and growth.  Giving the Lord all of the credit for getting me through those tough times has drawn me closer to him in so many ways and sharing, I think, has also helped others to open up and be honest with themselves, others, and the Lord.

  • This article is a great reminder to be honest with your writing. Never assume your reader will be turned off by your truthfulness. Many times I have watched people who have a story to tell, but change it for fear of hurting someone. But, then is it your story? Or just the image you want others to hold of you? Tough to splay yourself open like Braveheart (screaming “Freedom”), but imperative.

  • Wayne Groner

    Excellent advice, Jeff. I tell students in my life writing class to go ahead and write their bad and hurtful experiences for the therapy of it. They can decide later whether to publish the experiences as written, edit them, or not publish them.

  • Kay Day

    I had a story published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. In the story I talked about our bankruptcy and the fact that we were on the verge once again. It’s not something a person typically broadcasts.
    People responded by sharing their own struggles. The didn’t feel so alone, or ashamed. And because my story focused on hope that was extended to us, my readers also found hope.

  • Jeff, I had this conversation just yesterday with a good friend, pastor, and mentor. We were sharing parts of our lives that we aren’t happy about. We spoke about the dark places of our souls. It then dawned on both of us that we felt closer, not further apart. We felt knit together, not repelled. I’m grateful to have you write this on the dawn of that conversation. 

    My question to you, when writing as an author, in a public sphere like this, how do you discern what you write here when it may involve people that you know? i.e., parents failings, stories you learned from other’s failings, moral dilemas? Do you have different boxes? Do you go deeper online somewhere else like Facebook with a closer inner ring? By your advice, it sounds like we should be as honest as Brennan, who was a man without a family. How did what he share impact those around him? Was he more isolated for doing it I wonder?


  • Andrea Lawrence

    When I tell the ugly parts of my story people either look at me like I’m crazy or laugh out loud. Why? It’s ridiculously funny. I make an effort to make it fun to look at the ugliest stuff I got. I find it gives people permission to do the same for themselves. Which is just freaking beautiful.

    Look, we’re all human. Some of us have some crazy stuff that happened in our lives.  I’ve noticed that it’s not actually the “stuff” that happened that’s ugly- it’s just believing there’s something wrong with me that I did it that’s ugly. I mean, the shame can hurt so bad. Telling on yourself and sharing that ugly stuff is such a gift to everyone including ourselves. It’s like we think that hiding and hurting will keep us from doing it again. It’s not true. It makes me want to go and do more icky stuff. Embracing it and sharing it is what makes me want to be the best person I can be. 

    To be able to share that with others is priceless. Virtual high five to everyone with the wisdom to do it!

  • Sometimes the ugly parts of our stories affect more than just me as an individual.  Where there is community and/or family involved, I’ve learned the hard way there is a need to protect.  That is not to say that I am not honest with who I am.  I try to live contemplative life that is willing to not don the masks or gloss over my faults and foibles, but I am keen to know that my redemption may be hurtful to some who are not ready to understand.  I had a dear mentor put it to me this way, “we all have dirty laundry, but there is a difference between putting it on the line to dry and parading it around as a trophy for all to see.”  Some things are just not ready to be revealed.  We can be honest, but we don’t have to be forthright all the time.  When I am aware that “some might be saved” through the brokenness of my journey I am happy to reveal, rather than exhibit.  I am who I am by grace and trust that I will continue to grow in grace.   

    • Thanks for sharing!

    • That’s true. There is a difference between transparency and exhibitionism. Great point.

      • 7thdaylady

        I’ve written a book about my family and it was uploaded to the publisher just a few days ago. Within 24 hours, I was overwhelmed with the fear that some of my family will resent parts of the story I have shared. One sibling told me at the start not to gloss over the realities but to be truthful in what I write. I tried to do so, but now fear that others will react negatively and be mad at me. I suppose time will tell whether my fears are justified or not!

  • Diantra

    I particular like this post because I started on a journey a few years ago which I have often referred to as my release.  I was dancing with demons and the music was too loud in my head.  I referred to what I wrote as Whisperings from my Soul or, as I have never considered myself a writer, Scribblings from my Heart .. this has now changed to my page Scribblings of a Scattered Mind.  In any case, many may find my writing disturbing at times or “dark” but the turning point for me was when I had written a piece called Mixed Message of Love (they are not for the faint of heart) and there was a part that touched a heart over the other side of the world who has suffered for many years since being raped as a child .. she wrote me that sharing my truth had brought her to tears and helped cleanse her pain .. what a gift she gave me .. may we all share our moments of tragedy, suffering, hurt or shame so that we may release others from theirs ♥ Namaste ♥ Dianne
     “Plastic suffocation
    Turning blue
    Raped and battered
    Silent tears”

  • I actually, recently posted some really hard stuff on my blog, meeting a challenge by another blogger to let my story be known. It was difficult, but was sabotaged. I took it down because of family members who could not well handle the truth of what I shared. I think it touched more of their own wounds than they were ready to see/hear.

    I’m so glad to read this today, though, because my blog has been clogged…stifled. But now…with this plus a plentiful other messages along the way, have given me permission to write again. Because it is my hard, ugly grace stories that I write about.  And I don’t want to be afraid anymore of the way others may perceive it…even if it means knowing it can hurt a families pride, whose been unwilling thus far to acknowledge their own brokenness.

    Thank you.

  • MichaelDPerkins

    I shared last Sunday night during our small groups.  Someone made the comment, “You’re a pastor, so you’ve never done anything wrong.” I about fell out of my chair.  We spent the next few minutes discussing how much of a screw up I was in HS and college and how God got me through alcoholism and an obsession with being liked.  They reacted in an amazing manner.  The evening was great.

  • Anonymous

    When my nephew died, I wrote a piece about how I missed being in the moment with him on the last Easter he was alive because mentally I was caught up with a problem at work.  All I had as a memory were pictures on my Blackberry, but I would have been more present if I had known that his time of remission was about to end.  Instead of being with him I gave my life to something unworthy of my time.  I shared my story with friends, and they in turn shared it with people who would benefit from it as well.  A man who was emotionally detached from his family called it his “lightbulb moment”.  His comment alone was enough to make exposing my mistake worth while.   

  • I routinely share my inadequacies.  I was recently appreciated by a friend as “someone who leads from a place of vulnerability.”  

    The truth is, though, I rarely share more than the tip of the iceberg.

  • Jeannine J Wynne

    It seems we are taught not talk about the bad, only the good, because “no one wants to know your problems.”  I used to subscribe to this theory, but found that people didn’t get to know the real me that way.  I’ve had people react in different ways when I’ve shared the “ugly parts” – some are shocked, some are understanding, and some have trouble lining up that person with the person I am today.  Personally, I have come to embrace all aspects of my life – ugly or otherwise – because all of those parts add up to make me who I am today.

  • I appreciate this post because it helps me feel more confident in telling my story–one that begins with my first memory of abuse and ends with the near-dissolution of my marriage, but that has God’s evident grace as its anthem. 

    After getting an MFA in creative writing and even teaching the subject at several universities, I had put down the pen. I was too afraid to tell my story–fearful of what people would think and how those closest to me would react when I told the truth. 

    Then, this past June, I felt compelled to spill some of my guts on my blog, which had lain dormant  for too long (and to which I was never fully committed). 

    The result was the restart of my writing but, more importantly, the resurrection of a calling that I had forsaken: ministering to people the deliverance I have received from the Lord; within a half-hour of my posting the blog, a handful of women contacted me. One was about ready to leave her husband; another was on her way out in a different way. Reading my story had given them strength to hold onto theirs.

    I’m thankful to men like you and Brennan Manning, who encourage the rest of us to tell our stories straight. Please pray for me as I tell mine.

  • Golightlymuse

    It was heartening to read this blog post. I’ve been struggling about whether to begin writing a memoir that describes decades in which I’ve struggled with addiction, chronic anxiety and depression and PTSD as a result of severe abuse as a child. When friends have listened to even a part of my life story, they marvel that I continue to persevere. I’ve been encouraged on many occasions to share my experiences with others, but every time I sit down to get to work I am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the pain I have suffered. I worry no one would finish my book, so dark is my material.

    Recently I read a passionate manifesto that challenges the mainstream addiction recovery model. Dealing With Addiction – Why The 20th Century Got It Wrong, by Dr. Peter Ferentzy. I was so impressed by the fresh and valid tenets in his book, I wrote to Peter to thank him for his courage and insight. He replied to my email asking if I would share more about my experiences with addiction. I spent a few hours writing then sent it off to him.

    Peter wrote to me again, this time to urge me to write my own book. “I’ve been reading some of the stuff you sent me — and it’s pure gold. I’d like to use some of it in another book I’m writing — if that’s OK with you (just bits and pieces). Put your memoirs/biography/story together, and think of a book. I’ll write an endorsement for the cover, and even write an Introduction for your book if you want me to. If my next book comes out first, and it should, I could mention you by name right in there — free advance billing. Your story should be out there, and if you’re willing to put it together, I will support your efforts.Up to you!”

    I was pleased, then realized he had thrown the gauntlet down and challenged me to write. Minutes later your blog post popped up in my emailbox. Every word you wrote resonated within me. I can’t thank you enough.

  • kati

    A few months back a friend and I were wrapping up a long, happy evening– we’d done great job, as usual, covering all of our favorite topics together.  Off-handedly, she mentioned that I was the ONLY one of her many married friends who would talk with her about married sex.  All of her single friends talk about it all the time, but once they get married, she’d hear not a word more.  As a result, she had no context by which to imagine how to make such an unusual situation (permanent monogamy) effective.  

    This shocked me!  She is so easy to talk to, and a great facilitator of all things relational, so  i figured she had everyone in her life sharing their stories and offering insights and support.  Once i realized i was an anomaly in her world, I took stock of my myriad of other connections (close and casual), and realized she was an anomaly in mine.  It settled into me that most of us just don’t have the language — the talking points, so to speak — to launch into such vulnerable territory.  Even with the closest of friends.

    So I became inspired the next weekend and wrote 12, yes, an entire dozen, free verse poems  that i titled “Muddy Roses: the naked side of durable love”.  In each one, i tried to blend my own realities with the tiny, cloaked snippets I have gathered from others through the years, to paint an honest picture of such an important part of life.  I offered no easy answers, just tried to be real. Some of what came out fits your ugly category.  But — I stayed true to the idea and was quite pleased with the results.  

    I nervously shared them with several of my closest friends and the results were AMAZING.  The poems became the conversation-starters that enabled us to help each other live a little better.  I got so excited about the idea i even created an online page so people could request a set from me.  Someday I’d like to connect with an artist who can capture the essence of the ideas in shapes and color.

    Thanks for your blog.  And thanks for this book recommendation!  I can’t wait to check it out.  Have you read any of his other stuff? I just wikiepdia’d him.  His titles intrigue me, especially Gentle Revolutionaries and The Furious Longing of God.

  • 75celtickisses

    all parts of my story are ugly.  they either changed the subject or closed all further communications.

  • shi

    Anyways, here’s my reply with regards to one of your latest articles..
    ‘I would have to say yes, there was a time that i told an ugly part of
    my life..well its not really ugly-ugly..its like an out of this world
    experience…and surprisingly i wasnt expecting them to be more
    interested with what happened..well some would ignore and change the
    topic but some would take it as an experience in life…then suddenly
    you just both laugh about
    it..strange but its a good feeling:) you know what? I tend to realize
    that you cry or feel upset experiencing an ugly part of life but once
    you’ve passed that road..seesh and look back at it..you’ll be even more
    impressed about yourself..like your a hero of yourself..amazing how
    life’s lessons are..:)

    what do you think?^_^

  • Denise M.

    I’ve shared a part of my story with others.  Yes, one could consider it ugly as it was a horrid thing to happen to me. It’s not something I share often. But when I do I see that quick, automatic sympathetic apology. I can see that it may not be all that genuine a sentiment. Rather it’s said as a way to fill in the silence. If that makes sense.
    I’ve often thought about writing it all down, not so much as nonfiction as perhaps written in memoir form but written as fiction… a novel of journey, to protect the (not so) innocent.
    I think some people are afraid to really become engaged with others, to allow deep conversation where real and often painful topics are discussed.  Most, when they ask “how are you?” truly aren’t looking for the responder to mention how they’re REALLY doing. Instead it’s said more as a greeting. So I wasn’t surprised by the reaction(s) I received. As sad and as cynical as that sounds.
    I read the blurb for Mr. Brennan’s book. It sounds rather intriguing. Thank you for the opportunity to win  a copy.

  • Oh yes I have shared the “good, the bad, and the ugly” in my devotion-journal, A Pruned Branch. As my elderly mother would read the daily entries she would call me and say, “Whew – I didn’t know THAT about you.” I revealed all – came clean – ALL IS GRACE! ♥

  • Debbie Tripp

    I am in a memoir writers group.  I have shared things I have never told before.  The support and kindness I received helped tremendously in beginning the healing process.

    • i would love to be a part of a group like that

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  • I tend to usually tell the ugly parts of my story.  I make sure, though, to tell the redemptive parts too.  Not everything has a “happy ending”, but there is usually some take-away value to anything I feel worth sharing.  People react how they react.  I usually find that any negative reaction to the good/bad/ugly is because it strikes a cord on something they aren’t willing to face in their own life, but mostly, people respond to honesty and openness.  We are all broken people and I think we can connect much more deeply to one another when we’re willing to tell the whole ugly story. 

  • Love this post and can’t wait to read this book. I run a Recovery ministry at my church so I get to see week in and week out the incredible process of bringing brokenness out into the light.

  • Mary

    I have noticed that it is pretty common to tell the “ugly” stuff to people who will probably be fine with you, even if you admit to committing a heinous crime. Like my twin sister, for instance. We regularly let each other “get away with murder” (just for the record, that’s just an expression I am using) and have the freedom to bare the ugly truth to each other without fear of being condemned. Sharing these same sentiments with the general public or even those that we are not as close to would have a much different feeling. I myself have a tendency to share “too much information” with perfect strangers on airplanes, of all places, and I always find a sense of unease oozing from my unfortunate captive audience. I read this uneasiness as the other person feeling almost soiled or tainted by my disclosure…as if I just handed them a used tissue! I suppose presentation is key – in writing, it is almost as if you are sharing your personal journal entries with others…not quite the same as bombarding them in real life and causing them to slowly inch away from you. That’s my take on it, anyway.

  • Kathie

    Being truly honest is a delicate thing. I think it is always helpful to have clearly defined for yourself the “why” of your sharing. This too comes with maturing as you imply in your response to Jenny. As a younger person I was afraid to share…a mother’s abuse of a daughter had little to nothing written about it until long after I began having to examine it in the 80’s to climb out of the downward spiral it had set off in my own life. For a longtime truth was silenced by conflicted loyalty. Then I couldn’t be sure that, the opposite of being a hero, I wasn’t sharing as some method of self-mutilation. I needed to know why I would bare my soul. That moment came in a call from a grown son, just out of a locked pysch ward on suicide watch because his own addictions had led to a serious dual diagnosis that threatened to take his life even after getting clean. He remembered I had once said I thought if you did good, made a difference in one life you could consider it a success. In tears he called saying he couldn’t say that. As a writer of other’s stories, I told him that if he told his story perhaps it would help another. He asked for my help and in writing his, I realized I could not be honest for him, without being honest about myself. We shared the story at a drug prevention assembly together once in a very powerful day and one child from the assembly, after spending time privately with my son, made the decision for recovery and asked his principal for help. The why made the difference. For us both.

  • I most recently wrote about some unpleasantness, but haven’t had any feedback yet.  I think that honesty like that is easier for people to relate to.

  • LeighAnne Turner

    I don’t know if I’m too late to jump in the contention for the giveaway but regardless, I wanted to share something. I’ve spent the better part of the past year determined to get back up after falling from grace year. We all have our own issues and mine became clear to me but not before pulling me down and playing a part in poor judgement that resulted in the snowball effect. I’ve known since I fell that God was going to redeem my life and do something powerful with it. As I’m starting to emerge from the smog and can see buds where fruit is starting to grow again, I’ve been compelled to NOT dust my story under the rug so that only the fruit will show. I’ve been convicted over and over again that God didn’t redeem my life so I could be hush-hush about my fall but more importantly, HOW I STOOD BACK UP to once again walk with Christ. Too many times, our culture focuses so much on the fall of a person and the consequential outcome…and that’s important…but it seems more important to me to emphasize how a person fought to come back back and went on to live a Godly life. If telling my story helps even one person get back up after they fall or motivates one person to NEVER stop seeking Christ no matter what…than my experiences will have served a purpose. I know that I almost gave up after I fell because society wants you to believe that your mistakes define who you are. Even some Christians make it their quest to ostracize the fallen and lost believers. It doesn’t have to be that way if more people could be honest about where they’ve been…and how they came back! Brennan Manning played a MAJOR part in my “coming back” because several of his writings gave me hope and inspired me to turn my cheek to the judgements and condemnations I faced. I haven’t read this book that you are referencing but I am absolutely tickeled that you have highlighted it AND written such a heartfelt purpose to support reading it. Thanks Jeff!

  • Anonymous

     I can remember telling the ugly part of my story, expecting derision and anger. Instead what I received was understanding and grace. I found  that oftentimes, I believed it was much uglier than other saw it.

  • Faith Barista | Bonnie

    Jeff, I love your review of All Is Grace — served up to encourage us to write the ugly parts. 😉

    “Full of self-effacing remarks and honest confessions, Brennan’s story may either give you hope, or depress you. Maybe both.”

    (raising my hand) Yes. Both for me. And I now, I will never forget Brennan … or God’s grace because of his story. It activated both parts of my heart – which means, his writing has entered into the privacy of pain, where there is hope for joy too. Because that is where Christ is. 

    Love what you do here, Jeff. You do it so well. You do it honestly.  And you bring us with you.  Thank you, friend!

    • My pleasure, Bonnie. Thanks for reading!

  • I tell the ugly parts of my story to anyone who inquires and is willing to listen – and I get mixed responses. Some are aghast, and some are jubilant. Many, however, while very receptive to it…turn around and shut down toward me.

    My story has a very spiritually dark side most Christians don’t even consider touching in their lives, and since I “went there” – I think my story has a potential to scare people off. Yet at the same time, I am constantly encouraged to tell it – in it’s totality in a book. Yet, here I sit and wonder some days, “is it really worth it if so many get scared by my story?” I mean, is it really worth it if so many consider my story “too heavy?”

    I know God has called me to tell this story He’s given me to tell, but I am in a season of looking at myself in the mirror and really wondering what I am made of to even truly start telling so much of my story to others en masse. I am confused as to why I am to tell my story in totality when even the one-on-one sharing sessions cause such responses that clam most people up into deafening silence.

    I must say your post has given me much to think, and also pray, about. I know (in my mind) I am the only one getting in my own way by letting others’ responses to my story dictate my movement in telling it…I am simply in a “just but…” phase at the moment I am working through.

    • thanks for sharing, Marni.

    • NathanS

      Please tell your story. If one percent of the public need to hear it, and respond favorably, you will save 3,000,000 Americans. Forget the rest. They either can’t be saved, are already saved, or will be reached by someone else. We need to know what you came to learn and teach.

    • Darlene Bishop

      I know this is an old post but I just came across it and have to respond because, Marni, I’m in the exact same place. Christians are often afraid of the ugly side. But if they can hear it, it can truly set them free. Jesus said to those who “have ears” to hear. While we all have ears, we’re not all ready, willing or able to hear. I pray God directs us both to find a way to share what He has given us with those who CAN hear that message.

  • Great post, Jeff.  Been so busy I missed this one.  Yes, the truth sets you free.  I’ll be celebrating 10 years of sobriety later this month.  In the early months of sobriety, I felt so “free” that I was willing to share with pretty much anyone and everyone this ugly side of me.  I had to learn that there are more appropriate settings to sharing the ugly!  Perhaps, the person in the grocery store really doesn’t need to know 😉   But living without a mask is SO amazing!  And, I guess I just hope others who are in bondage can find this freedom too. 

    • wow. beautiful. thank you so much for sharing! congratulations, Eileen!

  • I wanted to share that I have shared the ugly parts of my story on my blog, of deep dark depression that sneaks up on a person. My being transparent and open has helped others to feel not so alone. And I can only hope and pray that maybe I encourage someone to go for help. I  may never know, but I know I am doing what I am supposed to.
    Thanks, Jeff, for confirming this for me!

  • It always hurts to hit the ‘publish’ button on the painful stories, but those are the very ones that people read the most. Your article has inspired me to go even deeper, to be more ‘real’ … and I thank you! I love Brennan Manning’s books… I can’t get enough!