Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: A Character Study with Micah

No, Micah is not a kind, bearded psychiatrist with a C.S. Lewis quote on his wall and calming music playing in the background.

He’s an Old Testament prophet. (Although he probably also had a beard. Or maybe that’s just my stereotype from too many flannelgraph figures and coloring pages where all the men had beards.)

One of my all-time favorite verses is Micah 6:8, which says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

There it is. So simple. If you want to know where God has gifted you, why you struggle in certain areas, or why other people act the way they do, just look at this verse.

One kind of strange-sounding way I’ve applied this to my life as a writer is to use it to analyze my characters. Out of the three categories on this list, what comes easily to them and what does not?

Let me explain using the “Big Three.”

Seek justice – This doesn’t mean crazy hippie protestor, or even Captain-America-style vigilance. It really has more to do with loving what’s right and doing it.

Love mercy – Obviously, this goes past just feelings and into actions. See 1 Corinthians 13 for a more exhaustive clarification (or just go to a Christian wedding, where there’s a 99.5% chance you’ll hear it read or see it on the program).

Walk humbly with your God – No, not literally taking a stroll with God. It has to do with giving God control of your relationship and taking yourself out of the center of your life.

I’ve realized that most people (and, therefore, most fictional characters) are very strong in one of these areas, kinda strong in another, and weak in a third. And it’s pretty easy to see which is which.

Example: There’s this character…we’ll call her…Amy. Coincidence. Really. She is crazy-overboard passionate about defending the truth. She loves logical reasoning and debate and knowing what’s right and what’s wrong (for herself and everyone else…which doesn’t always work out). Oddly, she doesn’t see things in black and white, but has strong opinions on the grays. Seeking justice is her main strength.

Amy is also a people person with a big heart…but only for the people she knows personally. She’s not very compassionate for people or causes “out there” in the world. And sometimes, her need to be right makes it hard to forgive and love others who disagree with her and are different from her. Still, she can listen, give hugs, plan parties, and invest in others, so loving mercy is her secondary strength.

Oh, but then we get to the third qualification. There are just a few small problems with this for Amy: the “walking with God” and the “humbly.” So, yeah, pretty much the whole thing. Sometimes, it’s hard for her to make her relationship with God an actual walking-talking relationship (see Enoch in Hebrews 11), mostly because she’s a head-oriented person. But because her justice-side makes her good at following the rules and her mercy side makes her a decently lovable person, she can easily become proud of her own goodness. Walking humbly with God is obviously her weakness.

See what I mean? That entire psychoanalysis took me all of fifteen minutes (and I wasn’t even sitting on a couch!).

It’s pretty easy to walk through these three characteristics in your own life or the lives of characters, but it can tell you a lot about who they are and how they work.

WARNING: Don’t try to do this to a non-fictional person who you didn’t create – it requires deep knowledge of attitudes and motives that you don’t have. Bad things will happen, like judgmentalism, jealousy, and your face melting off.

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