Monday, December 7, 2009

Show--Don't tell!

One of the common principles in effective writing is to “show—don’t tell.” In other words, a good writer aims to demonstrate to the reader what is happening rather than explain to them what is happening. And that is actually one fitting way of relating the difference between our true self and false self.

I thought about this because of a recent experience where I witnessed a leader of an organization “tell” rather than “show.” He was in the middle of bantering about something when he went to great lengths to tell those listening about how committed he is to the organization. Those who bought his defense clapped with enthusiasm, demonstrating approval at his commitment. I, instead, felt suspicious.

This leader’s effort to convince his followers of his devout loyalty to them came off more like telling rather than showing. Telling is indicative of the false self—the self that works hard to convince others of its value and virtues. Our false self is “self-referencing,” as Robert Mulholland suggests. Everything is about it. The false self goes to great pains to prove itself.

The true self, on the other hand, “shows.” Who we are and what we are about becomes evident in the way we live. We don’t need to prove it with our words. When we live from our true self in Christ, we are so deeply connected in love to Christ that our need to confirm to others that we have value or competence is gone.

If you want to know whether you are living from your true self or false self, pay attention to whether you “show” or “tell.”