WHAT DO I ? (Four Questions and the Life Wisdom of an Acting Exercise)

As actors, we use certain tools to flesh out a character and, hopefully, to make the character and the scene authentic.

One of those tools is to ask four questions of the character:  
1. What do they need?
2. What do they want?
3. What do they fear?
4. What do they love?   

The answers inform so much of how actors develop characters into “real” human beings, with thoughts, emotions, intent, desire and yes, fear.

I have found this to be an interesting and helpful tool in pastoral ministry and counseling, as well. When counseling (or just casually conversing) with someone, when I am hoping to be intentional and (Ideally) helpful… these questions can help me hear the hopes and cries of the heart more accurately.

Ultimately, it can help to ask myself these same questions when faced with opportunity or risk or key decisions or hard feelings or confusing relationships or mixed emotions or inspiration or … you get the picture…

1. What do I need?
2. What do I want?
3. What do I fear?
4. What do I love?

It is an incredibly helpful tool that I admittedly came to later in life than I wish.
Especially the fear question.
It has only been in the last few years that I have started to more intentionally ask this question in the midst of difficult conversations with Jana, or a co-worker or even conversations with God, in prayer, as I try to sort things out in life. It can be incredibly helpful to identify what I fear.

When I do that, it takes away the power, to some degree, of whatever is haunting or holding me up from a goal, a relationship or a project. If I am strong and wise enough to identify my fears… and especially… if I can, in a non-emotional way … or in a way that does not point fingers or blame.. but just rationally (easier said than done, I admit), “name” the fear… well, then I can start to do something tangible and intentional about it. And in conversations with another person, it takes it off of “YOU” statements and makes it more about addressing those hurdles to good communication, rebuilding trust or analyzing my own wants, needs and motivations.

Try it. It is in incredibly helpful.

What do you have anxiety or anger about right now?
Or what key decision are you needing to make but are quite worried about?

Ask yourself what you fear.
(And what you need, want and love.)

The answers will absolutely guide the next steps in coming to resolution. They will help you in communicating and building trust and finding answers with others. And they will also inform your prayers, as you bring those concerns and fears to God and continue to ask for clarity and help.

Not bad for an old acting exercise, eh?

And they say a theater degree is impractical for life.

“They” speaketh incorrectly.

Love you, friends.

And more importantly, Jesus loves you.


+ Jonathan


A Moment of Crisis

A 7 year old boy is the first to greet me yesterday morning, shortly after I finish performing the Witnesses drama at the host church.

He looks a little worked up.  Jonathen Swenson Circle

I am thinking maybe one of the more intense scenes in the drama scared him a little. Or maybe he has a new question about God that he wants to ask me. Drama Ministry can make you think new thoughts and ask new faith-related questions. Happens all the time.

So the service is getting out now and people are coming towards my info table to say hello. I can tell this little guy is having a hard time working up the nerve to ask his question to the guest actor and pastor.   

I lean in a bit closer to help him out, and to let him have a little privacy. You know, so he can ask his question quietly.

He looks right into my eyes now, and I can see his forehead is scrunched up. Tears are forming in HIS eyes. This little guy is REALLY out of sorts about whatever it is he is going to discuss with me.

Finally his courage breaks through, he catches an extra breath and asks the big question…

“Do you know where the cookies and Kool-aid are?”

Apparently my display table was located where the coffee and cookies are usually served. A tragic miscalculation in hospitality.

I smile, give him a fist-pump and say, “A man after my own heart”… then point the way to the relocated post-service refreshments.

And once again, I am grateful to be a servant of the Gospel.