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The Stories We Love Will Shape Our Character

Professor Daniel Taylor notes that as a child Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian leader who was executed for resisting the Nazis, was greatly moved by reading a book entitled Heroes of Everyday. It was filled with stories of courageous young people who, with selflessness and clear thinking, often saved others' lives, sometimes at the cost of their own. And, apparently, shortly before his execution, Bonhoeffer was also reading Plutarch's Lives, a book that explores the courageous character of ancient figures. Based on Bonhoeffer's example, Taylor asks:

Can we doubt that Bonhoeffer's reading shaped his acting, including his decision to risk his life to save others? Ethics are more formed by the stories with which we surround ourselves, than [just] by the rules that are drilled into us. Tell us what stories you value, and we have a good start on knowing who you are and how you will act in the world.

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