Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom


Show, Don’t Tell

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on May 18, 2012

When I was young, I treasured show and tell at school. What a thrilling experience to share a coveted item with my teacher and peers. And they didn’t just look at it; they also listened to me tell about its importance.

Yesterday in my classroom, a student raised his hand and asked about an item on a review sheet. I offered further explanation, and he immediately started answering the question verbally. Pointing to his paper, I said, “Show me on your paper. Don’t tell me.” From experience, I know if it comes out of a student’s mouth for my immediate approval, they’ll forget what they’ve said when they start to answer it on paper. I urge them to write it down first then if they want me to check it out, I’m happy to.

As soon as I said those words to my student, I had to smile to myself. In the writer’s world of critique groups and courses, the phrase “show, don’t tell” makes many participants cringe. Don’t tell your reader what your character feels. Show it through the actions, thoughts, and words. Sounds easy, right? It did until I really learned what “telling” is in writing. Talk about an eye-opening revelation. Most of what I’ve written needs major renovation.

Then, as my mind frequently does, I wondered how God views this issue I’m pondering. Yes, He surely wants me to show. In my daily walk, I should show my gratitude and my efforts to copy his Son’s perfect example of love. I should also show His light through my actions, thoughts, and words – hey, that’s just like one of my characters. The difference is my characters have to do, think, and say what I write. I bet God wishes he could “author” my character without all of the pesky human tendencies to disobey. Lucky for me, His patience is endless.

But God’s motto isn’t “show, don’t tell” because He also wants me to tell Him everything. Even though He already knows, I should pray to him about all aspects of my life, the significant and the minor. Telling in writing can insult the intelligence of the reader, but telling doesn’t insult His intelligence. He doesn’t think, “I already know that. Does she think I’m an idiot?” He’s delighted because I’ve taken the time to acknowledge Him and His part in my day. I’m glad there’s one area of my life where it’s okay to show and tell.

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6 Responses to 'Show, Don’t Tell'

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  1. I really liked your take on the show and tell topic, Linden. Great job!


    • Thanks! It’s amazing how many different areas of my life it touches! Have a great weekend and thanks for commenting.

  2. carriellewis said,

    An interesting perspective.

    I agree that we are to show the life of Christ through our own lives, but we are also to tell others about the joy we’ve found. The example we live is good, but it can’t reveal the reason we live as we do (if we live in Christ). It’s up to us to ‘tell’ that part of the story.


    • Very true! Thanks for pointing this out!

  3. marneymcnall said,

    Like you, I believe God really wants us to ‘tell’ him everything. He already knows, but it helps US strengthen our relationship with Him.


    • You are so right…and strengthening that relationship is what counts! Thanks for commenting.


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