From the Stack

Journaling is not only healing, it’s a permanent record of growth and maturity

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If I could go back in time and start something over, one of those changes would be journaling.

I was a junior in high school when my teacher, Keith Larson, who I give full credit for urging me to become a writer, suggested that all of us start a journal.

Because it was required, I began doing the assignments, but soon found that I really enjoyed writing. It was an excellent way to purge my mind of all the teenage anxiety and frustration I was feeling at the moment. Journaling was also a record of impactful things that took place in my life.

Mr. Larson strongly encouraged me to keep up the practice when that assignment was over. I seriously contemplated doing so.

But, in 1977, girls kept diaries and guys certainly did not. There were only two males who I knew kept a journal: Mr. Larson and John Boy Walton, the oldest child on the popular TV show The Waltons. His goal was to become a professional writer.

I remember mentioning that I was considering keeping a journal to my mother, whose reception to the idea was less than enthusiastic. “You mean a diary?” she asked. “Well, I guess captains keep logs of their ships,” she added after I corrected her.

The journaling idea was abandoned a short time later because I certainly didn’t want anyone else to read what I had written. My nosy sister liked to snoop around my room gathering evidence she could later use as leverage for whatever reason.

I have always regretted that decision. What a wealth of information I would have at my disposal today!

If I had maintained that journal, I would have captured:

  • My feelings about women I dated and the one I eventually married.
  • Jobs I had along with career aspirations.
  • The joys and frustrations of raising three daughters.
  • My transformation from being a liberal to a right-of-Reagan conservative.
  • My conversion to Christianity and the constant struggle to overcome sinful thoughts, actions and habits.
  • Details of the thousands of small decisions I made that ultimately determined my destiny.

I was reminded of my regret earlier this week when I read an article on the A Bookish Charm blog. Penned by a woman named Ryanne, she was reminiscing about her decade of journaling experience.

“Rereading specific entries often proves cathartic, insightful or humorous,” she wrote. “The shelves that I reserve for my journals have become a place of comfort, grounding and reorientation.

“Regular journaling fosters a reflective mode of life that contributes to a greater sense of wholeness and meaning, as well as to introspective and intentional personal development,” she added. “Ultimately, journaling as a rational, imaginative, emotional and temporal activity is valuable not merely as a helpful human discipline, but, perhaps, as an innately theological endeavor.”

Perhaps the best line of her story is this:

“It may be tempting to abandon journaling because individual entries feel insignificant. Journaling, however, ought to reveal the opposite: that all of life is interconnected and that the mundane is meaningful,” Ryanne wrote. “Certain entries may be far from profound, yet they represent the day-to-day activities and thoughts that generate the narrative arc of life and, through this, contribute to our own development.”

It is the minute decisions people make which, when compounded over time, determines their destiny.

I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but periodically reviewing my choices made in whatever frame-of-mind I was in at the time may very well have allowed me to step in and alter the trajectory upon which I had set myself.

My life may have been drastically different today had I stuck with journaling — and reviewed those entries from time-to-time.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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