Clients and friends frequently ask me how to handle sensitive information when capturing their legacy tale. There isn’t one perfect solution or easy answer, but the best counsel I know comes from Spencer Kimball:
“The truth should be told but we should not emphasize the negative.”
Hard times in our lives may not show us or our loved ones in the best light. Often we want to protect our posterity from a negative view of us or a spouse or other family member. That is noble, and in some cases may be the right approach. Yet it is the trials of our lives, especially those caused by the hurtful actions of a loved one, that mold and define and make us who we are. Without the context of challenges, how can we adequately comprehend the character?
Consider these true examples:
- A woman’s strength and rock-solid courage and amazing capacity to forgive are directly attributable to her years of marriage to an abusive, unfaithful spouse.
- The ever-present patience and faith of parents was forged while dealing with the addiction challenges of a beloved daughter.
There are dark and difficult periods of my own past that I am not yet ready for my children to know. I haven’t yet determined how to tell the true tale of those days in a way that is inspiring instead of negative. Yet the character traits that define me– and for which I am now grateful– were developed in that darkness. Someday I want my children to know of the trials that scraped and refined me. So I will find a way to tell that tale.
It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself,that determines how your life’s story will develop.– Dieter Uchtdorf
Someday, you will have posterity dealing with challenges similar to yours. They need to know they are not alone, that their family members also struggled and overcame. They need to know that there is hope and healing. There is change and forgiveness. That is the message. Tell the truth in ways that seek to uplift.
On the other hand, if there is no value to be gained by sharing what sheds negative light on someone, leave it out. Also, there may be cases where an experience is related with the caveat that it not be shared until a certain number of years has passed or until all those involved have passed away. Discuss as a family how to best handle sensitive information.
I love what Bruce Feiler had to say at RootsTech 2016. In the context of remarkable lessons from the Bible, he noted the difficulties of Abraham leaving his home, the exodus of the children of Israel, and other challenges of Biblical figures.
“The greatest breakthroughs come not in the best of times, but in the worst of times.” In telling your own tale, “take your lesson from these oldest stories [from the Bible]. Don’t just tell the wonderful moments of your family. Find a way to delve into the most difficult moments.”
True experiences, especially the hard ones, are what make us who we are. Tell the truth without emphasizing the negative by focusing on the lessons learned from trials, how people may have changed, and the Lord’s guiding hand and blessings throughout hard times.
Don’t leave your tale untold…
Was this post helpful? If so, please share on social media. And if you have feedback or suggestions about other useful topics, we’d love to hear it!