“Worldview” is a collection of assumptions people hold about the world they live in and their place in it. More specifically, our worldview can be defined as a set of subconscious mental images that guides what we believe to be real, what we perceive to be important, and how we behave toward others.
So how does a person’s worldview form? And how can one’s worldview change?
A communications professor once told me that our most firmly held convictions are in the form of mental images. These images that reside in our minds are developed and remembered based on past experiences. For example, try this experiment. Ask someone: “What comes to your mind when I say the word ‘wedding’?” If your conversations are like mine, responses you get will be quite varied, but they often include “bride,” “white dress,” “vows,” “rings,” “flowers,” and “dancing.” Some will recount portions of their own wedding or relate a story about another bride they knew. Still others will tell about something bizarre or unusual that happened during a wedding they attended. But no one has ever responded to my question with a philosophical answer such as, “A wedding is the spiritual union of two individuals into one in the sight of God . . .” Our beliefs and values are embedded in our minds not as abstract concepts, but as images and stories that are born out of our experiences.
In our enlightened, rational age, story is still at the foundation of our lives. In a culture of iPhones and ThinkPads, the words “Once upon a time…” and “That reminds me of an experience I had years ago …” are still primary pathways to meaning and relevance. N.T. Wright said,
Stories are, actually, particularly good at modifying or subverting other stories and their worldviews. Where a head-on attack would certainly fail, the parable hides the wisdom of the serpent behind the innocence of the dove, gaining entrance and favor which can then be used to change assumptions which the hearer would otherwise keep hidden for safety.”
With our literate-based, rational approaches, we often lack patience and want to see rapid change, which often leads to only surface change. But over time stories alter worldviews, because stories change people from the inside out.