Narratives Matter

ImageNarratives create. Narratives define. Narratives rule. Narratives set the soundtrack to our minds. Narratives establish the rules by which we live. Narratives predict. Narratives describe. Narratives dominate. Want to know someone? Want to really understand why your husband acts the way he does? Want to really understand why your daughter does the things she does? Want to understand your boss? Your community? Your party? Your church? Find out the narratives. Find out what stories they read. Find out how they see themselves in their own stories. Find out how they see their world. Find the narrative playing in the background of their minds.


Scientists tell us that something like 98% of the decisions we make on a daily basis are made automatically. The brain runs like a computer. It makes snap judgments about people, places, events, actions, statements, etc. It makes those decisions based on the previous inputs. It plays a gigantic game of memory. It remembers which card this card is like; then it flips the match. Mostly. Of course like in any game of memory, we get it wrong; but mostly when we do we don’t even know. Mostly we know that we don’t like or do like this person and we act accordingly. We don’t ask why. Mostly.


Narratives are the operating system running in the background. They speed the process and make the decisions.


Ever wonder why everyone on your social network can hear some event and make the same decisions about this event. Want to know why they seemingly independently arrive at the same posts. Chances are, they are running the same operating system; getting the same inputs; and reaching the same output. We like this guy. We don’t like this girl. I know what he is saying makes sense to you, but we know he is lying, dishonest, not to be trusted. We know what she said sounds bad to you; but we know what she meant, we know she is good. The same OS just kicked on. The same narrative establishes the story. 


You know that guy on Facebook that kills you with his inane posts. You know the girl on Facebook constantly linking to stories that defy logic. Chances are, they are running a different operating system. They’re Mac. You’re Windows. Or vice versa. Different inputs. Different outcomes. How can you like this guy? How can you hate this girl? How are you so smart and so stupid at the same time? A different OS just kicked on. A different narrative creates discordant readings.


So homework time: what’s your operating system? What are the stories that feed into your life? How do you see yourself in the story that is your life? What is the narrative that drives your life? Answer those questions and you can understand who you are and why you are doing the things you do. 


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