When I’m working with men in my counseling practice, I sometimes find that they just don’t get what I think I’m explaining so clearly. No matter how many times I try to explain it, the dots just don’t connect for them. But I’ve found a solution. I tell them a story.
When I use stories to illustrate the truth that I’ve been trying to explain, their response is often, “Oh, that’s what you mean? Now I get that!” The stories I use come from a variety of sources. Some are directly from the Bible (after all, it’s the greatest story ever told). Others come from good literature. But another source that has been consistently effective are stories taken from movies.
Now some may object to using movies to communicate spiritual truths. Admittedly, there are potential pitfalls to this tactic. Make no mistake, I never endorse everything in any film (not even in Christian films). And there are some films I would never think of using because of the offensive content. However, I don’t think we should throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water just because we can’t place our stamp of approval on every frame of any one film. I’m pretty selective.
My point is that stories told well in the form of movies (and the same would be true of good literature) often communicate to men who may never pick up a book. But, make that same book into a movie, and men are more likely to see it. And, more importantly, get it.
Film (although it’s almost all digital now) is a powerful means of storytelling. I have a hunch as to why men connect with film? Men are visual. Men like to experience an event. A movie is a vicarious event. It incorporates more of a man’s senses (sight, sound, action, emotion) than just about any other form of media. It’s an experience that drowns out the real world for two hours and transports the viewer into a different era, a different land, a different society, a different world, and/or a different set of circumstances that challenges him with what would he do if . . . he was thrust into that story. (That’s also why video gaming is so addicting for many men as well.)
Jesus didn’t have digital video at his disposal in the 1st century. (Okay, you knew that.) However, he did incorporate the story-telling vernacular of his day to make his messages more easily understood by all who heard him speak. They were called parables.
Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus used this well crafted story to get around the defenses of a young lawyer who was testing Jesus (vs. 25). Jesus first told him the truth. Then, he told him again with a story.
Movies are our version of modern day parables. Movie references pepper our conversations. Think about it. All I have to do is give a one-liner from a movie and most can quickly identify where it comes from. Try it.
“You can’t handle the truth!”
“Life is like a box of chocolates.”
“All men die, but not every man really lives.”
How did you do? A Few Good Men. Forest Gump. Braveheart.
That’s why I pull illustrations from movies when I counsel and when I speak at men’s conferences, seminars, and retreats. A well-chosen video clip communicates more and does an end-around a man’s normal defenses better than I can in 30 minutes of trying to explain it. When I engage a man’s head and his heart with a movie clip, his natural defensiveness to whatever truth I’m teaching is often significantly diminished. That’s the power of story. It has a way of burrowing behind our normal defenses and gets to our hearts. And after all, isn’t that the point of a good illustration–to embed truth into the heart and mind of the listener in a compelling way?
That’s what Jesus did with parables. That’s what Nathan did with King David (2 Samuel 12:1-15). David’s defenses were drawn down because he was captured by the story, and then busted by Nathan’s simple indictment: “You are the man.” And David got it. Read Psalm 51. David wrote it after his encounter with Nathan.
I wonder if Nathan would have had a problem using his iTouch (if he had the technology at his disposal 1000 years before Jesus) to show David a clip from a familiar story about a shepherd? It probably would have been pretty effective, don’t you think? Something to think about, isn’t it?
So, what’s your story? Is there a film or a scene from a film that captured your heart and compelled you to face up to a challenge, love life more deeply, or face your fears in ways that drove you deeper into your relationship with God? Feel free to share your thoughts and tell us your story.
After all, who knows? Your story just could make the difference in someone else’s story.