To whom do you lend your ear?
Two people can witness the same events, walk away from them with totally different accounts and both are factual. One of them tells the story and stirs up outrage, the other sympathy and compassion.
What makes the stories different is the intentions or the message of the storyteller.
The storyteller could be a friend recounting an incident she just witnessed at the grocery store, a spouse demanding more attention, a child acting out, a politician soliciting your vote, or a preacher admonishing you to shun carnal lust. It could be your teacher, or your parent, a lawyer in the courtroom or a news commentator. In addition, your storyteller is in books, music, TV shows, cartoons and commercials.
The job of every storyteller is to inform, provoke and engage his/her listeners. A skilled storyteller is purposeful and masterful with words. He deftly arranges the details to paint a picture that will elicit the desired mood or reaction.
Likewise, an unskilled storyteller stumbles and sputters his story, painting a distorted image that evokes the opposite reaction of the one he intended.
What is in the heart of the storyteller? How does he/she feel about what he wishes to convey and what does he desire for you to feel?
The telling of a story reflects the mood, ideals and/or beliefs of the storyteller. If he feels passionate (either negatively or positively) or indifferent about the story it will impact the way he conveys it.
Nowadays it is rare to read or hear anything delivered objectively. An encyclopedic telling of an event is extremely dull and can be nonabsorbent. But told with an imaginative eye and an artful arrangement of words, a story causes a reader or listener to hear and respond with enthusiasm.
So it matters who you’re listening to. While the intent may be obvious in some, not all messages are evident. Many are cleverly hidden. Pay attention and search for the message within the story. Even the simple, silly ones contain one. It could be one to bring awareness and a call to action. Maybe it’s a cry for help. Or the message intends to influence your perspective and sway your beliefs and/or ideals to those of the storyteller or a cause he supports. Or it’s only intent could be to make you laugh.
When you find yourself outraged, chastened, or sympathetic after listening to or reading something, ask yourself:
- Are these feelings based on my ideals or beliefs or someone else’s?
- What is the storyteller really trying to tell me?
In a world where everyone has an agenda, an ideal or a cause, seek to be an independent thinker, one who is able to decide for himself what to believe despite clever tactics. It is everybody’s prerogative to change his mind. Let it be your choice to yield to another way of thinking.
Tips for Independent Thinking:
- Become an active listener. Learn to listen for the message. In this case see the forest, not focus on the trees.
- Control your emotions. Don’t be quick to react.
- Be open-minded. Hear the facts as objectively as possible.
- Know what you believe; be self-aware.
- Seek out more witnesses. Never form a conclusion from the word of only one source.
- Make righteous judgments–after careful consideration.
And most importantly, take heed to whom or what you listen to. You will ultimately conform to whatever you entertain.