My fabulous pastor spoke about the importance of story yesterday, on the same day that I finished the book Story by Robert McKee, and I like that kind of coincidence, which usually isn't much of a coincidence at all. The book has radically altered my perspective, for my writing but also for how I live my life, offering me a kind of permission to pursue the enduring power of story-telling.
My pastor did the same thing, highlighting two important things that Jesus did: when he was asked a question, most of the time he responded either with a question or a story. He didn't have a ready answer, he didn't argue his point, and it wasn't critical that he walk away having convinced the other person of anything. He wasn't in the convincing business. He modeled the idea that it's better to love than to be right.
I think that this idea of answering questions with questions, or telling more stories in conversation with people might just revolutionize our relationships. I have come to understand that when people ask questions, they are trying to find out answers, but I don't have to give them answers. How can I, when I have so many unanswered questions of my own? We are all on the same journey of life, with similar setbacks and triumphs, and I would prefer to be helped along my way, supported and loved, than to be instructed in your views of right and wrong.
The power of story is that we can access the deeper emotions and meanings which are common to all mankind, and discover them in a way that might be different for each person. A story is not a sermon where we listen and learn; in a story we interact and are changed, often without realizing that is happening. I want to connect with others through emotion in my writing, but also in my relationships and in the "Mondays and Tuesdays" of my life. After hearing my pastor yesterday, I see that it's possible to do exactly that, and my attention has been caught and held by the practical nature of living this out.
I want to love instead of being right. When I've interacted with someone, I want them to walk away and feel cared for and heard, not converted to my point of view. It's so freeing to walk away from all of that. Every person is responsible for themselves - their own beliefs, dreams, pain, joy and actions. If we all looked after ourselves, we would be able to get along on an entirely new level, where we don't demand so much from one another.
Answering questions with thoughtful questions and interacting with people through story is a new concept to me, but in many ways it is as old as time itself. I'm looking forward to searching out ways to make this a reality in my life from this point forward.