Show, Don’t Tell

When I started college over ten years ago I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. I thought I might like to work in TV so I started out as a broadcast journalism student. That was my first of three majors during my college years. My time as a journalism student was valuable because I learned a principle from the field of journalism that works in almost every area of life.

Journalists frequently refer back to this principle: show, don’t tell. In other words, don’t tell people the economy is bad, find a family that’s struggling because of the economy, tell their story, and in the process, show people that the economy is bad. Or, don’t tell people how great a program or organization is, find one person whose life has been changed by it, tell their story, and show people who great it is.

Every great door to door salesman (if there is such a thing) knows this principle. If they can just get inside and show you how great their product is, there’s a good chance you’ll buy it. This is precisely why you should never let them in! You know you don’t need a set of knives but the guy just cut a brick in half with his knife and you find yourself saying, “That’s a pretty sharp knife.” He knows that he can’t tell you how good his product is and convince you to buy it, but if he can show you, there’s a good chance you’ll buy it.

This principle applies in ministry. While it might be tempting to try to convince people about the importance of your ministry by telling them about your methods and programs, the best way to convince them is to show them one person whose life has been changed because of your ministry. Show, don’t tell.

This principle applies in family. If you’re a parent, you might consider convincing your kids to make wise choices by telling them about all the consequences that come from making poor choices. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, the point would likely be made more powerfully if you shared one story from your life when you made a poor choice and suffered the consequences for it. Show them the importance of making wise choices, don’t tell them.

The next time you need to convince someone of the importance of something, remember this principle: show, don’t tell.

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