The Story We Tell Ourselves

Derek Rishmawy describes an idea he teaches young men and women who think they’ll ditch their biblical morality for a season in order to have fun.

I always tell my students they need to be aware of the myths and stories they tell themselves about reality, because the story you think you’re in determines the character you become. Neutral time is a particularly popular story. It goes something like this:

I’ve been a good kid in high school. I’ve done my homework, been to Bible study, and didn’t mess around too much or anything. Now, though, I really want to go out and enjoy myself a bit. The “college experience” is calling, and I can’t be expected to go and not let loose a little bit. I mean, I really love Jesus and my faith will always be a big part of my life, but you know, I’ll just go off for a bit, maybe a semester or two, have my fun, and then be back around. You’ll see.

Where else in real life does this exist? Would they tell the Lord to his face that they’ll mock him with their actions for a time and then come back? This is easily the beginning of a story Old Scratch often tells. It begins with the suggestion that morality doesn’t matter and can be left aside for a time and builds to the declaration that Jesus never cared about you because if he did, you wouldn’t be in this immoral mess.

2 thoughts on “The Story We Tell Ourselves”

  1. Another factor is that whatever you sow you shall reap. A small amount of seed stuck into the ground produces a large crop of the same seed after some time. Those who think they can sow their wild oats without reaping the fruit of wild oats for the rest of their lives are deluding themselves.

    I see a common thread between the sow/reap analogy I have used with young people and the myth of Neutral Time used by Professor Rishmawy. Youth appear to be hardwired to engage in short term thinking. A huge factor in coming to maturity is learning to think long term.

    Since no one approach has proven effective in overcoming the natural tendency to think short term many approaches are needed. Since this is a literaure blog, a couple of literary examples come to mind. In one of his Thursday Next novels Jasper Fforde included a subplot of a shortened “now” threatening to bring an end to all of time. In the Crimes of Galahad Dr. Boli highlights how long term thinking leads to honorable behavior in spite of the protagonist’s decision to live an evil life. When he defined evil as doing whatever was in his own self interest in spite of the effect on others, he found that doing the evil thing only gave a short term benefit. He kept deciding that the long term costs of short term pleasures was an expense he didn’t want to pay.

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