Negative Elements

With my kids, my use of the phrase “negative elements” covers many things: vulgar or coarse language, fighting, vanity, greed, childish wickedness, etc. They’re all eight and under so they have no clue just how negative elements can get. My oldest actually asked me to define it once, and I was unable to. We talk about negative elements, they see them on shows, but there are just elements I don’t want introduced unmitigated in their hearts, souls, and minds! Writing, however, is often all about negative elements!


While I am sure there are writers out there who write in sheer delight of God’s mercy and creation. Great! Still, I can admit I write precisely because of negative elements. Not to glorify or delight in them, but to warn others. To show their subtlety while also showing their character and how wildly things can spin out of control. After all, we’re Christians: we believe sin enslaves, deceives, entices, grows, and brings great harm and vice.

I once thought of sin in terms of “things that cause harm.” That meant, oh, as long as no one is harmed . . . not entirely thorough thinking there. Who knows if someone is harmed in the long run? God! Hence He reveals sin by His Word. Which is also to say, His Word is far more discerning than I am!

Sin, in addition to other ways we describe it, is a force and a force to be reckoned with. And, frankly, since the devil is still bigger and bulkier than I am, I am in some ways limited in how I can respond. I need to respond with Jesus. I should respond without false impressions of myself. But to get back to writing/writers, I can respond in my vocations. I can love and forgive despite the forces in my life according to the holy Word of God. I can pursue good work.

We—you and me—can write so much! We can warn. We can educate. We can redirect to God’s gifts. We can use our imaginations, as diverse as they can be, to depict evil in ways human minds and hearts can process, because evil is very real. We can de-glorify it with our plot resolutions. We can fortify our little ones against it. We can instill a mindset of practicing goodness and forgiveness, so we do not fall into the trap of thinking ourselves better than we actually are. In short, we can love while delicately handling major issues in our writing, even when they seem minor.

I think writing is uniquely suited to treating negative elements, precisely because we can rework, reword, and tweak as we go along. We can try to discipline ourselves to align better with God’s Word as we go along rather than falling into traps and passions that throw all restraint out the window.

We should be aware that we are tempted. We can glorify things with our words when we ought to glorify God, even if it is indirectly by showing earthly consequences of sin. At the same time, we can show mercy, mercy, mercy, and there is no mercy without acknowledging need and unworthiness.

As far as I’m concerned, negative elements aren’t to be avoided in writing. They are not to be embraced either, but treated with care. Maybe the phrase should be handled intentionally. So, let your inner theological editor in there once in a while, and see what he or she can do!


Filed under As Christian Writers

2 Responses to Negative Elements

  1. Curiously, my current post is an explanation of why “Vulgar Christianity” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Of course, it depends on definitions…

    A prime example of the value of “negative elements,” which you describe so well above, comes in testimonials or biographies. Honest treatments of struggles, failings and restoration are powerful. The Scriptures are full of them, and Augustine’s Confessions always provides an edifying read.

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