INSTEAD OF SHAME
THE FREEDOM CLASS
Chapter 1: Brokenness and Breakthrough
HOW TO WRITE YOUR TESTIMONY
Your first Workbook assignment is to write your testimony. Condensing your life history into a short story that others can read in a matter of minutes requires a bit of courage, some humility, and a heavy hand on the editing. Keep it simple and honest.
Take your time as you write your story. I don’t suggest that you try to finish this project in one day, one week, or even one month. You certainly don’t have to complete this assignment before continuing on to the next chapter. But allow yourself time for insight and reflection as you record your story, even as it continues to unfold. Your testimony an ongoing effort, subject to updates at any point in time.
1. Start with your childhood and continue in chronological order of events. In this study, the focus is on childhood concerns. While you will want to touch on all the high points (and low ones too) of your entire life up to now, be sure to include your early years and the events which impacted your emotions, attitudes, and perceptions as a child.
2. Do not concentrate on feelings. Don’t get hung up on disclosing all the details or expounding excessively on how you felt about an experience. A simple statement about what happened and how you reacted is sufficient.
3. Try not to throw anyone under the bus. Respect others’ privacy, even if they have caused you tremendous hardship and pain. If you must state facts that put others in a bad light, you may wish to change the abuser’s name or relation to you—or perhaps not. Protect your own privacy as well.
4. Focus on yourself. For example, another way to say, “My father abandoned me when I was in first grade,” might be, “I grew up in a single-parent household.”
5. Write about what mattered. Give attention to those events and circumstances that made a mark, like turning points in time.
6. Use discretion concerning delicate situations. You do not need to describe the details of certain traumatic events, such as sexual abuse. You don’t need to explain everything to the reader. This is just for you and will only be shared if you want to share it.
7. Be real. Be as genuine and transparent as you can.
I’m convinced that the best way to write your story is simply to begin. You don’t have to be a great writer to write your testimony. Even if you’re naturally good at writing and journaling, the following list can be used as a starting point to help you write your story. Add all information that you feel is important.
- Where were you born?
- Tell about your family. Did you have both parents? Were your parents married, divorced?
How many brothers and sisters did you have, and what was the birth order? If you didn’t
have a family, then tell about that.
- Where did you live? City or country, apartment or house? Did you move around a lot?
- Describe your home life.
- Tell about your mom’s personality. What about your dad’s?
- How did you relate to your mom and dad? The rest of your family? How did you feel
about your family?
- Where did you go to school? What kind of student were you? How did you interact with
your classmates? Were you studious? Adventurous?
- Tell about the economics in your home growing up. Was your family rich, poor, or
somewhere in between? Were your needs met?
- Was spirituality part of your childhood? Did you go to church? What kind of relationship
with God did you have as a child and teenager?
- Tell about your friends. Did you make friends easily, have few friends, were you a loner?
Did you have a lot of peer pressure, and how did you respond?
- What subjects interested you in school? Did you excel in anything? Sports? Music? Math?
- What was important to your family? What did your family do together for fun? What were they known for in the community? If you say “nothing,” that is fine.
- What was important to you? What were your dreams growing up?
- Was there a traumatic event or adverse childhood experience that changed you? Did it
reoccur? (If not a specific event, was there a prevailing condition?) How did you
- How did you react when bad things happened to you? Did you experience abuse, neglect,
or adverse childhood conditions? How did you cope with situations that were out of your
- Describe your teen years. Who/what was your most significant influence during that
- What did you do after high school? What were your plans for your life?
- What did you value the most as a young adult? Education, establishing a career, travel,
romance? Starting a family? Partying? Money? Cars, boats, etc.? Feeling important?
Ministry? Helping others?
- Describe your relationships throughout your adult life. Did you relate well with others?
Were you needy? Did you feel you were being controlled or in control? Did you think
other people liked you? Were you angry? Afraid? Outgoing? Shy?
- Did you develop any habits or destructive behaviors that you could not seem to break?
(chemical dependencies, promiscuous behavior, serving as a doormat for others, chronic
lying, criminal behavior, etc.)
- What were the major turning points in your life, in your childhood?
- What has God done for you so far?
- Where are you in your life now? What are your greatest successes? What are your
greatest frustrations? What is your greatest hope?
- Describe your current relationship with Jesus Christ.
- What do you see for your future? How did your past help to create a path for your future?
After each chapter, I offer some workbook questions to help review the key points from the chapter. You may find it useful to reread your testimony from time to time and review the progress you’re making there, in relation to the workbook questions. I suggest creating a separate journal or notebook where you can share your thoughts freely and think about the questions. Ask God to guide you in this journey and you can be assured that He will be with you every step of the way.