“Our first job is to oversee the work of the story-writers, and to accept any good story they write, but reject the others.”
In contemplating the ideal society, the ideal Republic, Plato poignantly understood the influence of the “story-writers.” You see, the tellers of tales have immense power over us. Power to shape our thinking, to formulate how we see the world, and even to influence what choices we make. In short, they have the power to affect who we become.
This is not an idea unique to ancients like Plato, though. Whether we realize it or not, the stories in our lives shape the way we think and how we interact with the world. Bible scholar and professor Ray Lubeck talks about the power of story this way:*
“Through stories, we learn how to see patterns, how to understand people and the way that nature and things work; we discover the consequences of people’s behaviors; we distinguish right from wrong; and we grasp the important things in life.”
From the time we’re children, we’re fascinated by stories and tales of all kinds. Stories play out scenarios before us and give us the information that we use to understand the world around us, and they therefore shape us at our core. Our worldview, our values, our priorities, our purpose… all these things are shaped by the narratives - the stories - in our lives.
Plato was very aware of this when he said, “Shall we, then, casually allow our children to listen to any old stories, made up by just anyone, and to take into their minds views which, on the whole, contradict those we’ll want them to have as adults?”
That’s enough to get us thinking right there, but just as Plato noted the formational power of stories in impressionable children, let us also remember the formational power of stories in us as adults. This is not a blog about government censorship; rather, it’s about personal choices and what we welcome into our lives and minds as people who follow Jesus. Our culture is filled with superficial, petty, immoral, and even downright evil stories from pop culture, movies, social media and the like, and those stories often play so loudly or so often in our lives that they drown out the stories of substance, truth, life, and wisdom that come from God. By the way, did you know that almost half of the Bible is story? It seems there’s good reason for that.
Whether we realize it or not, the stories in our lives shape who we are, how we think, and how we interact with the world. But it’s up to us to decide who has that power over us. So what stories are in your life on a daily basis? What stories are you taking in, giving permission into your mind, and letting shape who you are and who you become?
What stories are you listening to?
* from Read the Bible for a Change by Ray Lubeck