Irritation or Intrigue: You Choose (Part 2 on Story)

This week, Dan and his wife, Becky Allender, think back to the way in which one of their brief interactions led not only to confusion but to a deeper sense of irritation toward each other’s stories. As they recognized and named their everyday stories, those that too often get overlooked, they were able to move past avoidance and gain understanding and empathy. The episode ends with this encouragement and challenge: we all have a choice to make in each of our relationships—to approach another’s story with a sense of irritation or with genuine intrigue. What we choose will dictate the way in which our lives intersect with others.

Dan begins the conversation by reviewing last week’s episode. When a catastrophic story like that of Houston hits, we need to remember to review it often rather than give in to empathetic fatigue. Still, even with stories as big as the flooding in Houston and parts of Southeast Asia, we have to continue to make room for our everyday, often mundane stories—those that affect our lives in more ways that we might imagine.

When we address the enormity of human suffering, it’s difficult to feel okay about moving from a colossal story to a person’s mundane story. Nevertheless, we are going to shift here from the catastrophic to the “normal range” of stories because they matter too.

If we don’t take into account the small, we will never be responsible and care well for the large.

Dan explains that his and Becky’s everyday story happened this past week. It began as a brief discussion about friends who had moved to Seattle to go to The Seattle School. Their names are Lisa and Mark. Before Dan knew what had happened, Becky started talking about a different Mark without any warning. She could see Dan was befuddled and also a little irritated.

The two reminisce about the time they took to reflect on the ferry. At first, they laughed about the moment of confusion, but then they considered what had really happened.

Becky thinks back to a mother who was always impatient. Her only choice was to build a habit of being quick with her words. She remembers feeling like she had entered a new galaxy when she met Dan’s parents, who would just sit and listen.

Becky notes: “Now, I try to listen to you. You’re sometimes very verbose when I feel like there are so many things to get done.”

As Becky reflects on the reason she feels rushed to speak, Dan reflects on his own role growing up—feeling the burden to keep talking so there wouldn’t be silence and tension in the home.

The two conclude: “Stories are embedded in stories, and those stories shape our way of being.”

What we don’t see, we fail to name. And what we don’t name, we avoid.

Dan notes: “So often our stories interact with one another with a level of jaggedness and irritation. Simply coping by saying ‘That’s jut Becky’ or ‘That’s just Dan’ is a pejorative way to dismiss the other. The only other option is to have a stance of intrigue. You’re either going to have intrigue at one another or irritation.”

Becky notes that when she feels exasperated by Dan’s loquacious way of talking, she tries to remember to smile and simply say, “I love you.” By doing this, she acknowledges the difference between them and reminds herself that she does not need to be irritated. Instead, she can simply laugh and enjoy the moment.

Dan notes that intrigue will require us to begin with the assumption that we have a lot more to learn about each other. When you are curious about what has brought a person to be who they are, it changes everything about the relationship.

This episode ends with an important announcement: The Allender Center will be in Menasha, Wisconsin October 13-14 for the To Be Told Conference. We hope we can see you there, but if you can’t make it then,  you can bring others together at any time or place to work through the content by hosting To Be Told as a simulcast location. Go to for more details. . In making the material more accessible, we’re looking forward to reaching many people we couldn’t typically reach.

As we move forward with podcasts this month, we will continue discussing how themes of our stories will impact the intersections of life to life. We will continue to explore how to get to clarity and depth by engaging our own stories, others’ stories, and the story of God.