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Everybody’s got a story! I’d say that’s a good thing. And most stories have their interesting points, ups and downs, lessons to be learned. But not every story can be told, and certainly not every story can be known.

It’s not a bad thing to be honest about this superfluence: some stories will help you more than others. Some stories have useful knowledge to impart, wisdom particular to your situation, insights or experience that match your needs; the teller may have a way of explaining that matches your learning style.

But we also don’t always recognize the stories that are best for us: in fact, some of the best stories — those which transform us for the better — are generally impossible to recognize in advance, for only in our transformed state can we look back and see the growth for what it was.

The challenge thus becomes identifying those important stories. In order to be receptive to stories possessing unexpected benefits, we need to remain open to stories that look like they fit poorly, but which may fit us well indeed. Unfortunately, actually unfitting stories also look unfitting.

The more stories you hear, the more you glean the messages from different tellings and different backgrounds, the more quickly you’ll be able to identify the stories that fit you — or, more pertinently, pick out those that don’t.

If this all sounds a bit unhealthy, note that the ability to recognize pertinent lessons does not itself constitute an excuse to rudeness; quite the opposite. The challenge of preserving our humanity, our spirit, and our openness to the heartfelt stories of others throughout our own growth is one of the most fundamental stories of them all.

Learn, grow, seek, and preserve.

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