Jim Burns is President of HomeWord and has written books for parents, youth workers, and students. Jim and his wife, Cathy, and their daughters Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi, live in Southern California. Visit HomeWord.
What Do You Have in Mind?
By Jim Burns
Many years ago, a man was traveling across the country by sneaking from one freight train to the next. One night he climbed into what he thought was a boxcar. He closed the door, which automatically locked shut and trapped him inside. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he realized he was inside a refrigerated boxcar, and he became aware of the intense, freezing cold. He called for help and pounded on the door, but all the noise he made from the inside the car failed to attract anyone’s attention. After many hours of struggle, he lay down on the floor of the railroad car.
As he tried to fight against the freezing cold, he scratched a message on the floor explaining his unfortunate, imminent death. Late the next day, repairmen from the railroad opened the door and found the dead man inside. Though the man had all the appearance of having frozen to death, the truth was the repairmen had come to fix the broken refrigerator unit in that car. Most likely the temperature of the railroad car had never fallen below fifty degrees during the night. The man had died because he thought he was freezing to death.
Perhaps nothing is more powerful in the world than the human mind. Your mind matters, and how you choose to think will have a major influence about nearly everything that happens in your life. The Bible says, “As he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV). Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Man becomes what he thinks about all day long.”
Many times we forget both the positive and negative influences our minds can have on us. If you ever hope to live out your dreams and choose to live a positive, healthy lifestyle, then one of the major areas of your life you’ll want to work on is what you allow to enter your mind.
Your mind is so powerful and yet so vulnerable that whatever you put into it will eventually come out. If you put garbage into your mind, then garbage will come out. If you put good things into your mind, then good things will come out. Life is an echo; you get back what you put into it. If you tend to plant negative thoughts, then what do you suppose will grow inside your mind.
I recently conducted research in the area of pornography and its effects on teenagers. Do you realize that more than 10 billion dollars are spent on pornography in America each year? When you fill your mind with garbage, then the natural tendency is to take it a step farther and act upon what you’ve ingested. Half of all American teenagers have at least some exposure to pornography once a month. No wonder so many people have such trouble in the area of their sexuality.
If you are tempted to expose your mind to pornography, even if you think it’s innocent, don’t do it. I’ve met people who are addicted to pornography. It started out innocently, but they developed a hunger for more and more. Today they are very confused people experiencing deep hurts in their lives. Absolutely nothing is positive about pornography. I wish they would print billboards that read: Caution: Pornography Is Poison to Your Mind.
I’m not going to tell you to burn your TV set; but perhaps it’s time to think about what comes into your home and into your mind through television. Your TV set is not inherently sinful, but it isn’t neutral either. For example, the average high school student attends school approximately 1,000 hours a year. The same student watches more than 1,200 hours of TV during the same year. The average person watches 15,000 commercials a year – and 15,000 of anything is bound to have an effect on you. Have you ever thought about what TV commercials are telling you? TV commercials teach us, subtly, that:
1. All problems are resolvable.
2. All problems are resolvable quickly.
3. All problems are resolvable through the aid of some technology.
Actually, your mind takes an active part in this deception in the way it processes these powerful images. You may come to believe that if you buy a certain pair of jeans or drink the same brand of soft drink a famous person drinks, then you will find happiness.
The beer commercials are some of the cleverest on TV. Sometimes, I enjoy the commercials more than the program they’re sponsoring. Why is it, however, that most alcohol commercials show beautiful, healthy, happy young people enjoying life to the fullest when more than 3 million teenage alcoholics are addicted to a life that is anything but happy?
Life may be falling apart all around us, but our minds subconsciously tell us everything will be all right soon. After all, it always turns out okay on our favorite television programs. If we aren’t careful, TV soon becomes our reality. The power of the subconscious mind and the influence of television are so powerful that we can forget it’s make-believe. Years ago, more than 250,000 people wrote to Dr. Marcus Welby, M.D. requesting serious medical advice. Dr. Welby was not a real doctor, but a TV character! Were all these people crazy? No, they were normal people like you and me who just forgot that TV is a fake. If you are a couch potato or a “teleholic” addicted to TV, don’t think your problem is innocent. Television is not inherently evil, but it does have a profound influence on anyone who watches it for any length of time.
Today’s teenagers are unified by one common interest more than any other: rock music. The latest surveys tells us that the average student listens to four hours of rock music a day, and more than 85 percent of all American young people claim rock is their favorite kind of music.
Given these kinds of statistics, we must conclude that rock music plays a significant role in your life. Even when you do not realize it, your mind is recording everything that is placed inside it, even on a subconscious level.
In the Christian world, the subject of rock music is very controversial. Some people who have good intentions believe all rock music is literally satanic. Others, who have just as strong convictions, say it’s okay to listen to the majority of rock music. However, you’ll never hear anyone from a Christian perspective say that what some call “pornographic rock” is a positive influence for our live.
People frequently ask me where I stand in the rock-and-roll debate. I am personally somewhere in between the two extremes. I am deeply concerned about the subtle–and not so subtle–lyrics coming out of the mouths of rock superstars. I know our minds pick up on the lyrics even when we aren’t focusing on the words to the songs. The power of the mind is awesome and not to be taken lightly. I have seen hundreds of people lose ground in their relationship with God because, frankly, their choice of music didn’t leave room for their Christian faith. One of the Old Testament writers said, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15.) I think lots of teenagers, when asked this question, would lean closer to rock-and-roll than to the rock of our salvation.
On the other hand, just because a song is played on a rock station or has a more progressive beat, I don’t necessarily label it evil. I’m more concerned with the words than with the beat. I’ve heard some very raunchy lyrics from some of my parents’ slow country-and-western songs. Basically, you have three options:
1. I won’t listen to rock music at all.
2. I will constantly listen to rock music.
3. I want to be a selective listener.
Although many teenagers choose option two, I hope you won’t. Studies of the subconscious mind lead me to believe it’s just too dangerous to your lifestyle. Most teens say they don’t listen to the lyrics, but when they are asked the words of the songs, even they are surprised at how much of a song they can repeat from memory.
Here are some excellent questions and guidelines for listening to rock music (or any other kind of music):
• Can I glorify Christ by listening to this song?
• Am I using my time wisely?
• What has control over me?
When you are being totally honest and seeking God’s wisdom, these simple questions will help you make the right choices. They will help you intelligently choose what kind of music you will and will not invite into your mind.
Winning the Battle for Your Mind
Don’t forget: Media can fool you. Never underestimate the incredible power of music, movies, TV, videos, magazines, cyberspace; the direct influence they have on your mind is frightening. The Garbage In/Garbage Out principle is the strongest and most sensible principle for dealing with the media. If you feed your mind with negative influences, the negative will come out. If you feed it with positive messages, then the positive will win. It’s really quite simple. What goes in must come out. Because your mind is so much a part of who you are and who you are becoming be sure to make guarding you mind an important priority!
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Excerpted and adapted from Surviving Adolescence by Jim Burns, Ph.D. Printed by permission of HomeWord. For additional information on HomeWord, visit www.homeword.com or call 800-397-9725.
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