teaching stories

Kelley and Michael walked into my office. They asked a simple question about a person. I started laughing. They just looked at me.

I said, “Sometime I’ll be asked a question that’s not answered with a story.”

And then I spent five minutes telling them a series of stories about the person, stories that answered their simple question.

Those of you who have asked me questions know that I have a story for almost everything, a story of almost every item in my office. And I will inflict those stories on the person asking.

The reason I do that is not to amuse or confuse, though that is often the result. The reason is that a story takes you into the experiences that surround the mug or the pad of sticky notes or the timer or the candle on my desk. The story gives you a glimpse of the values that I’ve attached to the object. It takes longer. But you might understand why on the way to understanding what.

Jesus often did the same thing.

“How many times should I forgive my brother,” Peter asked, perhaps looking at Andrew. “Seven?” “Seventy times seven, “Jesus said. And then he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” And Jesus tells a story about little debts and big debts and gratitude. The disciples move into the story. They feel the outrageous ingratitude of one of the servants and the righteous indignation of the master. They learn more about the values of the kingdom. They begin to understand that the grace they have been shown should shape all of their interactions. And from the way Jesus uses story so often to teach, they see that sometimes hearts crave understanding, not just right answers.

Here’s a video version of this post.

2 thoughts on “teaching stories

  1. Rich Dixon

    For me this post contains three key words: “It takes longer.”

    Stories build relationship, relationship takes time. And both reflect how we’re wired. Time and relationship can’t be separated.

    If I really want you to understand I’ll take time to tell the story. If I really want to understand I’ll endure the story. If I’m in a rush I’ll send a tweet. 🙂


  2. Joseph Ruiz

    Rich for me the flip side is it also takes longer to listen to see the larger meaning that often overshadows the simple answer I think I am looking for. Stories convey principles they offer a rich context but they also make us work harder or at least I feel that way.

    Jon interesting the way marketing is evolving into story telling, taking it to new levels.
    Thanks for sharing.


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