I’ve been trying to think about what I put in my mind lately. I have limited time to watch or listen to things, so there’s an element of trying not to waste precious minutes or hours. But I’m also trying to consider: how is this going to benefit my life?
It may seem silly to think a podcast or TV show may change your life, but it does! Whatever I think about and dwell on affects how I feel, my opinions, and decisions I make. Those little choices add up to who I am and what my life looks like. Who or what we listen to can change our behavior.
An Early Idea That Changed Every Life
Dallas Willard points out how an idea affected every life in the whole world:
When [Satan] undertook to draw Eve away from God, he did not hit her with a stick, but with an idea. It was with an idea that God could not be trusted and that she must act on her own to secure her own well-being.
Eve’s choice influenced Adam’s choice, which led to the consequences we all experience every day. But God still allowed Eve and Adam to make those choices. He gives us the power to choose what ideas we hold onto and think about. Another quote from Dallas Willard states:
The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon.
What are you allowing into your mind? Are you filling it with truth, hope, and encouragement or fear, anger, and negativity?
From Fear to Peace
I saw this in my life a few years ago when I decided I should keep up with current events better. I started actively seeking out news, looking for shows and articles that covered all the recent headlines. And I noticed that it affected me. I became more worried, afraid, reactive, on edge, and critical.
When I realized this effect it had on me, I made the choice to stop trying to keep up. I didn’t even replace it with anything, I just stopped reading and watching it. My optimistic nature returned and I felt so much more at peace.
What I realized is, we live in a world where we can never possibly know about everything going on. I have a Father that does know everything, including what I’ll need to know, so I can trust that if I do need to be aware of something, He’ll make sure I see or hear about it.
Taking Another Step
Then I took it a step further. I changed the way I watched TV. I love binge-watching a new show as much as the next girl, but something happens to my brain when I do it. I get wrapped up in a non-existent world with fictional “friends” that I think about day and night, even when I’m not watching it. I can’t wait to continue watching; as a result I sacrifice sleep, nutrition, and connection with real people.
Instead, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about what I turn on. I ask myself why I’m turning on the TV:
- Do I want background noise? If so, I put on something I’ve seen so many times I’ll be able to turn it off whenever I want (even in the middle of an episode).
- Do I want to be entertained? I’ll often pick a movie so I can’t get sucked into season upon season that consumes my thoughts.
- Do I want to watch a new TV show? I carefully consider if I’m likely to go into “binge mode.” If so, I figure out what seems reasonable given my current free time and ask my husband to help hold me accountable to only watching one or two episodes in a night. And if I start to see myself getting sucked in, I choose to stop watching the show (even mid-season *gasp*).
The point is, watching TV shows or movies isn’t itself isn’t bad, but when they start to have power over my mind and sway my thoughts, then it becomes a problem.
What Does God Say?
This idea of being careful about what we allow into our minds isn’t new. Paul wrote about this in Romans 8:5-6, too:
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
When we’re living the way God wants us to live, we think about what the Holy Spirit wants. Instead of dwelling on things the world focuses on (“what the flesh desires”), it’s important to fill our minds with God’s truth. I do this by carving out time to read the Bible and listening to Christian music or a Christian podcast while I make dinner, drive around, or go for a walk.
It’s important we fill our minds with God’s truth because, as Paul wrote in the passage above, our minds will become life and peace.
Be Like a Zebra
How can we tell God’s truth from the world’s half truth/half lies? I really liked the analogy Priscilla Shirer gave in her Going Beyond Simulcast earlier this year. I wrote about it in my Life is Like Going Up a Down Escalator post:
[Priscilla] explained that when baby zebras (foals) are born, “Mothers often separate from the herd a short distance so that their foals can imprint on them. Once the foal can readily identify its mother, the mare and her foal return to the herd for protection” (San Diego Zoo). The foal needs to know its mother’s stripes so it can distinguish her from the other zebras.
The same is true when it comes to God’s truth. It’s important we really know it so when we’re confronted with the world’s “truth,” we can tell the difference. We can know those stripes the world is presenting aren’t quite right.
Who are you Becoming?
When we focus on and dwell on God’s truth, he transforms our minds to:
- Become better at determining what is true.
- Become life and peace.
In Romans 12:2, Paul wrote:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This brings me to one more Dallas Willard quote:
The main thing God gets out of your life is not the achievements you accomplish. It’s the person you become.
I like how Brant Hansen summarized this in the Living in Post-Christian America podcast Conclusion.
The most important thing in life is what you pay attention to. That determines your future and what you’re becoming, and God’s interested in what you’re becoming.
I just love how he summarized that. What you pay attention to and think about matters. The thoughts running through your head may not seem important, but they end up directly impacting your choices and the person you become.
What steps are you taking to carefully consider what you allow into your mind? Do you need to set up boundaries for yourself on TV shows, movies, podcasts, or maybe even social media?
And let’s take it beyond ourselves, too. What steps are you taking to consider what you allow into your kids’ minds? This could be an opportunity to help them start learning how to be careful about what they’re thinking about and dwelling on, too. I know it’s something I’d like to start doing better with!