Before You Share that Personal Story – 5 Questions to Ask


By Lori Hatcher 


Stories can make an abstract concept understandable. They help us connect with our audience, establish our credibility, and strengthen our message. Jesus, the master teacher, used stories to invoke sympathy, empathy, and understanding.

But what about personal stories? The experiences—good, bad, and ugly—that helped make us who we are? Or someone else’s story that provides the perfect illustration for the point we want to make? Can we tell these stories? Should we tell these stories?

Before you take pen (or computer) in hand and bare all, please consider these five questions:

Five Questions to Ask Before You Share that Personal Story

1.      Do I have permission to share?

Traditional publishers require authors to get permission from everyone they’ve written about unless they’ve altered the names and details enough to completely obscure the person’s identity. My rule of thumb is not to write anything about anyone that I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading aloud to them.

2.      Will I hurt anyone?

Perhaps more important than the question Can I share this story? is the question, Should I share this story? Some stories, especially those that happened to you, fall within your legal right to tell them. If you do, however, you may harm someone else. If the answer to this question is yes, ask God to show you an alternate way to make your point.

3.      Is now the right time to tell?

Many write out of deep personal trauma or crisis. Capturing the events, thoughts, and spiritual lessons learned in times of trial can be cathartic. The process of writing can bring about healing. But don’t rush the process. Just because you’ve written about your experience doesn’t mean you’re ready to share your writing with others. Be sure you’re free of anger, bitterness, and vengeance. Give the Lord time to do His work in your heart and life. Then He can use your writing to bring health and healing to others.

4.      Is this the right audience with whom to share?

Effective writers know our audience and tailor our message to their needs. When we’re reader-focused, we choose the stories that will benefit them, not those that will benefit us. You may have a sensational story, but if you have to stretch to connect it to the truth your readers need to hear, perhaps you should choose another.

5.      Has God released me?

You may have a story that passed all four of the above questions. You’ve gotten permission from the others involved, and you’re confident you won’t hurt anyone by telling it. God has freed you of bitterness or anger, and the story perfectly fits the needs of your audience. Still, as you pray over your writing (you do pray over your writing, don’t you?) you just don’t have a peace about sharing it. Every time you type the words, you feel a check in your spirit. Don’t ignore this.

God’s Spirit within us knows not only how our stories affect us, but how they’ll affect everyone who reads them. Once we send our words out into the world, we can’t retrieve them. Therefore, we must trust the Spirit to tell us when the time is right to share them. And if the time is right to share them. Some stories may be intended for you alone—and that’s okay.

Stories have an amazing power to connect us to our audience, communicate spiritual truth, and build relationships. They also have the power to cause harm, either intentionally or unintentionally. We are wise to choose and share our stories carefully.

Now it’s your turn. How do you decide which stories to share in your writing? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.


Photo courtesy of and Nick Fewings.

 Lori Hatcher is an author, blogger, writing instructor, women’s ministry speaker, and career dental hygienist. She writes for Our Daily Bread, Guideposts, Revive Our Hearts, and Check out her latest devotional, Refresh Your Hope, 60 Devotions for Trusting God with All Your Heart from Our Daily Bread Publishing. Connect with her at or on Facebook, or Pinterest (Hungry for God). 


  1. Thanks Lori. I used to hear this a lot in seminary when they talked about using your family as examples. Some pastors and teachers listened better than others.

    Tim Suddeth


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