The Power of Story: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A couple of years ago I wrote a post that pointed out that we often decide who “wins” a debate by basing it on whoever told the “best story.”  There is absolutely no doubt that “story” is a powerful tool and like any tool it can be misused.

I am very interested in storytelling and the ways it can enrich our lives.  We learn best and retain more if ideas and facts are presented to us in the form of a story.  So, my attention was drawn to a recent debate regarding an article written by Ben Howe. The first thing I found was at titled“Another Post Begging of Good Storytelling.”  (Lisa De Pasquale) You, of course see why I clicked on the link.  I know good storytelling and I know ineffective storytelling so I thought I’d find out what this was all about.

Howe wrote:

“Instead of pulling people into a story that espouses the underlying tenets of liberty, it slaps them across the face with all of the subtlety of a campaign commercial. Rather than taking the viewer along for a first person view of how our present can develop into their future, the filmmakers opted to skip directly to the bottom of the slippery slope without describing the tumble with enough detail to create a real connection for the viewer.”

Please note that my commentary here is in relation to the points made about effective communication of values and ideas through the art of storytelling.  I cannot, nor do I wish to address the accuracy of his applying this to the “story” in question.  I wish to point out that there is good information here regardless of your reaction to what Ben Howe was saying about the movie in question. It may or may not be accurate.

I want to reinforce for Conservatives something I’ve thought for a long time:  If we do not adequately harness the power of story and use the power of social media and other types of media to share our story it will never resonate with our listeners. NEVER.

_MG_2640I tell stories to children several times each month and have been doing so for quite a few years.  One of the things I’ve learned from the professionals is that the teller does NOT tell the listener what they are supposed to LEARN from the story.  If the story is told effectively even a five-year-old will be able to make the connection.  If the teller TELLS the listener what he/she is SUPPOSED to learn the incredible power is destroyed.  You want the light bulb in their brain to light up as opposed to shining a spotlight into their eyes.

The incredibly magic thing that happens when you do this is that the listeners sometimes make a beautiful connection that you, as the teller, never even thought of. The story is then a creation of what happens when a teller and a listener engage.

Howe continues:

Well first of all, films like Hunger Games succeed because they create a suspension of disbelief. They take you into a world so far removed from our own that you become absorbed in their universe. Suspension of disbelief can be vitally important if your intention is to make a statement that you hope resonates with the viewer. By absorbing them in something so far removed from reality, and getting them to accept that reality’s rules, you have opened their mind to ideas. This doesn’t work well if the person is instead constantly nitpicking what they find unrealistic.

Darn!  Could not have presented this storytelling tenet better myself!  Is Ben a storyteller?  i1035 FW1.1As I said, you cannot tell the listener what it is they are supposed to “learn.” That is why story is so much more powerful than “lecturing” children on behaviors and values you want them to internalize. They go to the imaginary world and come back with information they never would have gotten had the teller simply told them how they should behave and what values are desirable.

In a response titled “That Goes Double for Comedy” (Iowahawk) the author states:

“If conservatives want to be in the narrative biz, they need to step up their game. And if that means criticizing the quality of work by other conservatives, then so be it.”

I brought my children up to believe that you can learn something from everyone.  Valuable information is often lost because it is coming from someone whom we do not like OR we just don’t like what it is they are saying.

I would re-frame this statement by Iowahawk to say something on the order of: if we cannot help each other become better at telling the story of Conservatism then our cause is made harder than it has to be.

Finally, in a response to Iowahawk, “Storytelling, Message, and Argument” (John Hayward) states:

“Advice to aspiring right-leaning writers of fiction: tell good and true stories, and let the audience discover their meaning.  You don’t have to “push” anything into their faces.  Do your job well, and the audience will follow your story wherever it leads.  It’s not much fun trying to win an argument with viewers and readers, when they came hoping to be entertained or intrigued.  You can’t force answers down their throats… but you can offer them the gift of questions.”

_MG_3332Which brings me to the stories that are timeless and of great value: the stories in the Bible. I think we sometimes wish that Christ had made his stories a little easier for us to interpret, but I’ve come to believe that a great set of questions gets you further than being given all the answers.

I wrote the post a few years ago about not letting “whoever tells the best story” to win, but to attend to the promotion and honing of stories that promote our world view.  A world view that is in direct conflict with the Progressive world view; a Progressive view that has the advantage of being promoted through almost all media sources.  That then leads to the silencing of opposing views and causes the consumers of the information and entertainment to become intellectually and cognitively lazy…..never questioning the accuracy of what is presented as compared to the real world.

We come to believe that “they would not lie” and/or “that cannot happen here.” However, as we can learn in Proverbs, not everyone speaks Truth and their goals are not always to find Truth.

Proverbs 18:1 (NIV)

18 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
    and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

Commentary on this verse reads:

The desire of the fool is not to gain wisdom for the sake of being more righteous and just, but rather is through a proud desire to exalt self by being thought wiser than others, and so. Looked up to as above the generality of men. In his own mind, the fool separates himself from others, as being superior to them. All his efforts to gain wisdom with such a attitude, is simply an endeavor to glorify himself.

Our goal is to glorify God not to glorify ourselves.  Those two goals are mutually exclusive.

Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)

Fools find no pleasure in understanding
    but delight in airing their own opinions.

Commentary on this verse reads:

A defective heart reveals its true nature by what it hates as well as by what it loves. A fool is willing to use wisdom and understanding to further his own proud desires, but has no real delight in it simply for its own sake.

We all have defective hearts, however, if we strive to live the lives God intends for us we strive to find  and fully understand Truth even if it is difficult to hear. As the prayer says: THY will be done.

Proverbs 18:6 (NIV)

The lips of fools bring them strife,
and their mouths invite a beating.

Commentary on this verse reads:

These two things often go together—contentiousness and chastisement—for the fool’s very contentiousness is deserving of punishment since it serves no good purpose but is only done in an attempt to exalt his ego. There is much difference in contending for truth, which involves standing firm in it when others would compromise or contradict it, and merely being contentious, which involves an attempt to establish one’s own position regardless of the truth.

We attempt to stand firm and while that is not easy I believe we can tell stories that demonstrate the necessity of doing so.

This entry was posted in Collectivist Narrative, Media Bias, Social Media, Stories, World View and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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