Love Your Characters

From Writing and the Spirit:

I told my daughter Darcy I’d been convicted to take more seriously the injunction to love our enemies.

“But suppose,” I said, “a neighbor comes roaring home daily at 3 a.m. in his ’55 Chevy with dual glass-pack mufflers. And suppose when I ask him to quit roaring he only says, ‘You think I should walk?’ Then he laughs and slams his door on me.

“Now, my question is, what does it mean to love him? If I act like his friend, he might take that attitude as approval of his behavior.”

Darcy said she believes loving your enemy means doing your best to understand him by considering the things that might’ve caused him to act like a jerk. An ethicist or theologian might call that interpretation of love simplistic. Still, it’s useful. Most often, if we can understand what fears and insecurities might lead somebody to offend us, we’ll let go of a grudge and be healthier for it, and not act rashly against the person.

We can apply this sort of love to our characters. Read any Dickens novel and you’ll notice that, with few exceptions, the author appears to have a deep sympathy for all his characters. He relishes their uniqueness and does his best to present their quirks and motives in ways that make them come alive and that remind us to beware of passing judgment.

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