The Power Of Narratives

For each situation or person you encounter, there are a number of different narratives (stories) you can believe. Sometimes we blindly accept a particular narrative without really knowing all the information.

Case in point: When you think of Africa, what comes to mind? For most people, myself included, I usually think of a continent that is ravaged by poverty, AIDS and other diseases, and civil war. Those are indeed concerns, but they are only part of the whole, true story.

Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of many Africans working to fight the stereotype of “poverty porn”: “the tactic of media and charities that uses sympathy as a catalyst for monetary gain, exploiting the poor and uneducated, to showcase desperate conditions for an emotional response.” To counter the stereotype as a continental slum, a Somali-American student, Diana Salah, began the social media campaign, #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou.

Check out just a small sample of photos that have been posted with this hashtag on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 4.26.13 PMThe thing is, we buy untrue or incomplete narratives all the time. For as many times as conservative Christians get upset about being stereotyped by “the left,” they are usually just as guilty about stereotyping “liberals.” There are competing narratives about the founding of the United States and other significant events in our country’s history. In a church or ministry, there are always at least two sides to every story. Even in our everyday personal lives, it’s easy to accept what we want to be true about a person or situation, rather than what is true, because finding out the reality takes time, effort, and a willingness to learn, to be corrected, even to risk losing approval in your church, family, or friendships.

Be aware of the narratives you accept and perpetuate, and the effect they have on the pursuit of truth.

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