Story Catchers

Story catchers practice deep, empathic, compassionate listening. They are intentional about catching the stories of others, about listening lovingly to the blessings and blunders of those they encounter. Story catchers embody acceptance, compassion, and grace. Heartfelt story catching communicates messages such as “You are loved,” “You are worth it,” “You are respected,” and “You are valued.”

One of the story catcher’s favorite life verses might be 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” Story catchers believe like-mindedness, sympathy, compassion, and humility are the route to deep, intimate relationships. They are serious about the biblical mandate to tune in to the emotional and spiritual frequency of others (like-minded), to notice the suffering that others are experiencing and enter into their pain (sympathy) with tenderheartedness (compassion), and by acknowledging another person’s inherent worth as a fellow journeyer who needs the grace of God as much as they do (humility).

Carl Rogers, a famous and influential psychologist, has this inspiring definition of empathic listening: “It means entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever he or she is experiencing. It means temporarily living in the other’s life, moving about in it delicately without making judgments.”

The above definition reminds me of the television show Hoarders. I will never forget an episode that featured a hoarding therapist named Cory, who decided to sleep inside a house packed to the rafters with clothes and garbage. Insects and rodents scurried over the heaps. And the home did not have heat. Cory wanted to experience what the hoarder experienced as a way of truly entering and understanding her world. He certainly ended up with a frightening taste of what it was like to live as she did (spoiler alert, he didn’t get a good night’s sleep).

Cory’s decision to enter into the multisensory experience of someone who was hurting is what I think the Bible and Carl Rogers were getting at. Story catchers proactively make a pact to cherish deep emotional, spiritual, and physical contact with those they encounter. They are willing to enter people’s homes, no matter how messy, dark, or scary. Like Cory, they might feel nervous and uncomfortable at times, but they do the work courageously, knowing that through story catching they can love the hell out of people. Hell, in this case, signifies those things that torment or weigh heavily on hurting and “dis-eased” people.

Story catchers do not believe depth of connection can be found on the surface of people’s thoughts, but in the place where emotions reside—where “deep calls to deep” (Ps. 42:7). They recognize that behind emotions—such as fear, sadness, loneliness, hurt, and shame—linger relational questions and longings, such as,

Will you listen to me?

Will you love me?

Will you comfort me?

Will you be there for me?

Will you be proud of me?

Will you hold me?

Emotions become a window through which story catchers are able to peer to access deeper parts of people’s hearts and stories. By listening to the stories and accessing and acknowledging the deeper emotions and longings, story catchers often leave hurting people feeling profoundly understood. Those who experience a story catcher’s ministry say they feel lighter and freer, and more connected to God, self, and others.

Become a Story Catcher and not a Story Quencher!