To read or not to read, that is the question. Well, the question is actually a little bit broader than that: to consume or not to consume, perhaps, is a little more accurate. I’ve heard all my life sayings like “junk in, junk out” but qualified the “junk” I put in by believing I could handle it. As a teenager I listened to the same music everyone else did but thought that while other teenagers heard negative lyrics and acted out what they heard, I could hear the same bad lyrics and just enjoy the sound.
To some extent I still believe that. Yet just because you can handle something doesn’t mean that you should. A devotional I read recently about integrity said you can’t truly judge whether you can handle something (a book, music, movie, lyrics, etc.) until after you’ve consumed it, and then it’s too late. The devotional also pointed out what my mother always told me but that I never believed, which is that what you see and hear becomes ingrained in your mind and can be/will be recalled later. Your subconscious mind will bring up what has been fed to your conscious mind.
I’ve tested this theory a little over the last month or so and have tried to listen exclusively to positive music, primarily praise and worship music. And you know, in those rare quiet moments, I have found myself many times singing in my head the very praise and worship music I have been listening to. If a song is going to get stuck in my head, I’d much rather it be a positive, Christian song that is uplifting and encouraging instead of a song with a bad attitude like Pink’s “So What,” or a song about inappropriate relationships like Britney’s “Womanizer.”
I use these songs as examples because at the time I read this devotional on integrity I had just purchased both of these songs on iTunes and was listening to them on my computer, via my iPhone, in the car, etc. Even my 5-year-old was singing along with Pink, “I’m gonna start a fight.” I really started to feel convicted about the lyrics that I was allowing into my own head and now the heads of my children. I may can handle Pink, but can my kindergartner?
The struggle with what to see, hear, read, “consume” is not easy, and it’s a constant one. I still like the sound of the Pink and the Britney songs so it’s tempting to listen to them. I can relate to a lot of the lyrics in popular songs because they talk about love, break-ups, hurts, longings, all of which I’ve experienced. It’s enjoyable to hear lyrics that relate well to things I’ve felt and experienced. This is not to say that all secular music (movies, TV, books, etc.) is bad, but one should search their heart and their conscience to determine which ones are or aren’t appropriate to consume.
In fifth grade the principal at the Christian school I attended refused to let me and some friends sing a certain song in chapel because he doubted whether or not it was appropriate. He told us a simple truth that I’ve never forgotten: when in doubt don’t do it. He had doubts about the song so he couldn’t, in good conscience, let us to sing it. I’ve applied that principle many times, to the clothing I choose, the places I go and the people I am around. When in doubt, don’t. If you have doubt, there’s probably a good reason.
Ok, so my final thought on deciding what to consume is this: Is it healthy? This has been advice that I have given in the past to others yet I’ve seldom applied it to myself. (Remember, it didn’t matter to me if it was healthy or not because I could handle it.) But just this week I had to make a decision about whether or not to read something that I had doubts about reading. Initially I decided there was no reason not to read it and had a “Why not?” attitude. But that still small voice said to me, “Instead of asking ‘Why not?’ ask ‘Why?’ Is there a reason to? Is this healthy? What do you gain by reading this?” And the answer was nothing. Well, nothing good anyway. So I’m not going to read it. Doesn’t make it easier. Just like with Pink and Britney, I’m still tempted. But I’m confident that the positive Christian praise and worship that is filled my mind and my heart (as well as passages from the Bible, which I have been striving to read everyday!) is going to come to mind just when I need it and help me resist.
“Finally brothers, whatever is true; whatever is noble, righteous and pure; whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent, and worthy of our praise; think on these things.” — lyrics based on Philippians 4:8