Though it’s probably the commandment that gives writers the biggest headache, it’s probably the most rewarding one to obey, as we feel a great satisfaction when we see the results of doing it, as we know how hard we’ve worked for it.
Show, don’t tell:
Carl was happy with his new school.
This is more telling, versus:
As Carl reached to close his locker door, about to head to 3rd period, he was greeted by a boy from his previous class. “We’re glad to have you here,” the boy said. After the boy had left, Carl ducked his head into the locker, though he wasn’t hunting for a book. A lump rose in his throat. Someone (No, Carl realized, not just someone, more than one person; the boy had said “We) was glad he was here. As tears streaked his cheeks, Carl cycled through his memories of the past six months, being hit, tripped, insulted. Wiping his eyes, he shut the locker door, stood tall, head up, and walked down the middle of the hallway to his next class.
Snakes scared him.
As opposed to:
“Ahhh!” Julius shouted, as a three-inch lizard dashed only a hair’s length from his hiking boot. Julius looked across the mountain trail to see if any of his mates had heard him. “It was only a lizard,” he scolded himself, though he was sure he’d squeal the same way the next time. That scaly skin, that slithery body. All it took was being in the same reptile family as a snake. Needles pricked against Julius’s cheeks. Sweat formed on his brow.
She loved him so much.
As she watched his car drive away from her apartment complex, Lindsey wrapped her arms around her shoulders and twirled across the kitchen floor, her ankle socks sliding effortlessly across the linoleum. She breathed in the air, those last scents of his cologne, a little spicy with a hint of lavender.
Love is probably the hardest for us to describe. And it’s probably the hardest for us, as humans, to learn.
The paragraph above shows love as a feeling, a feeling of being “in love.” But what would it be like to show love?
Yes, it’s wonderful to tell that special someone, “I love you.” These are needed words. But words can often ring hollow, as our actions don’t echo our words.
My sister and brother-in-law live in a mostly black neighborhood of East Nashville. I’ve been living with them this summer. Across the street sits an apostolic church. This week, the church hosted a block party, featuring music, dancing, a jumper house, hamburgers, hot dogs, shaved ice, even “drive thru prayer”.
We walked across the street to check it out. Over two dozen people welcomed us with tight handshakes, saying, “We’re so glad to have you here.” The preacher, learning that my brother-in-law was also a preacher, invited him to the platform to say a few words (which he did, on unity and loving one another). As I watched a young girl do an expressionistic dance, someone patted my shouder. As I turned, a woman with a broad smile handed me a rock and again expressed delight that I’d come. I looked at the rock. Painted on it were the words:
That, to me, was an ultimate “show.” It made me realize: We can talk about reconciliation and togetherness. But it won’t happen unless we’re willing to show these ideals, not just speak of them.
(Note: Here, you can find the First Commandment.)