Epiphany: a moment of great or sudden revelation; an intuitive grasp of reality through something unusually simple and striking; an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.
Have you ever had an epiphany? Have you told anyone about it? Elise Ballard, Author of Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage and Transform, tells us how the experience of listening and sharing the stories of others might be our greatest gift.
As a writer and filmmaker, I love listening to people’s stories and I’ve spent the last few years interviewing hundreds of people about their epiphanies or their most life-changing moments. It’s been an incredible experience and it’s made me realize two things: the importance of asking my loved ones about their epiphanies and finding opportunities to share my own.
Why don’t we share our epiphanies with one another? Maybe because they are so deeply personal. There aren’t many opportunities in our society to reveal such delicate moments, and often we’re embarrassed and aren’t comfortable expressing the feelings they bring up. Many people I interviewed admitted that they had never before told their stories. And most of them were shocked by how emotional they became as they recounted them. They had no idea they had such intense feelings bottled up inside of them—no idea that these experiences were so emotionally charged, and so meaningful.
The Importance of Sharing Our Stories
It seems we don’t always take the time to think about extraordinary moments in our lives and what they really mean, and as a result we often miss experiencing the profound awe that comes from listening closely to others, to ourselves, and to the signs in the world around us.
I’ve learned through this journey that it’s important not only to listen to others’ stories but also to honor and share our own. Examining our breakthrough moments can help us gain insight into our lives and see where we’ve grown and where we still may want to grow. We often discover things about ourselves or find a deeper meaning behind an experience. During many interviews, people unearthed other epiphanies that they had forgotten or repressed, and began to notice how all their awakenings were connected to one another. I witnessed an incredible breakthrough when I spoke with the well-known psychiatrist, “intuitive” and best-selling author, Judith Orloff, M.D. Judith recounted how her mother waited until she was on her deathbed before telling Judith that she comes from a lineage of female “intuitives.” Her mother shared this after a lifetime of discouraging Judith from believing she had psychic abilities. For Judith, the healing that took place in that moment—when she learned the truth of her mother’s story—was life-changing. She saw her mother, and herself, in a whole new light.
Judith’s experience demonstrates a theme that I hear often: the idea that freedom, peace, and gratitude come once people understand their loved ones’ stories. Another inspiring woman, Florence Horne, my most senior Epiphany Contributor, wrote me a thank you letter after our interview, telling me how grateful she was for the opportunity to discuss her story, because she was able to reveal things to her children and family that they never had known. When Florence passed away a year later, her family told me how incredibly grateful they were to have had the opportunity to ask her about those stories and see such different sides of her.
Find Opportunities to Swap Stories With the Ones You Love
In our sped-up culture, we have in many ways lost the art of oral history. We used to tell our stories around campfires and dinner tables. Now entire generations’ stories are lying untold because we aren’t asking to hear them. There are many amazing people around you who help weave the tapestry of your life. Ask them to tell you about themselves. Wonderful riches are to be mined from everyone around us—from casual acquaintances to our closest friends and family. Our family’s stories are especially important because really, they are our stories too.
I’ve found that people will share their stories generously if they know that their listener respects their experiences and truly wants to hear about them. Many people have told me they wanted to ask their parents or grandparents about their epiphanies, but they couldn’t any more. They had passed. So share your epiphanies and your personal stories and ask the people in your life about theirs. As Andrea Buchanan, Epiphany Contributor and author of Note to Self and Live and Let Love, says, “If you can tell your story, you will heal yourself, and you’ll help others do the same.” What greater gift could you give to the ones you love?
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