Because it is impossible for us to truly know anything beyond our own lived experience, 29 sharing our stories is the most powerful form of teaching. It allows us a chance to learn about others’ lives and worldviews.
Often, our rhetorical purpose in storytelling is to entertain. Storytelling is a way to pass time, to make connections, and to share experiences. Just as often, though, stories are didactic: one of the rhetorical purposes (either overtly or covertly) is to teach. Narration articulates lessons drawn by looking back articulating what has been learned.
Reflection is a rhetorical gesture that helps you and your audience construct meaning from the story you’ve told. It demonstrates why your story matters, to you and to the audience more generally: how did the experience change you? What did it teach you? What relevance does it hold for your audience? Writers often consider reflection as a means of “looking back in order to look forward.” This means that storytelling is not just a mode of preservation, nostalgia, or regret, but instead a mechanism for learning about ourselves and the world.