How We Deceive Ourselves

There once was a television show which I started watching. You might even be a fan of the same show. Despite running for a long time, it still remains a popular program. I tuned in for a few months. I found the characters witty, and the stories clever. Sure, some of the language they used could be considered “mild profanity,” and some of the dialog contained “adult situations” or innuendo. The show itself was a comedy, and each episode provided a short escape from reality.

Entertainment should provide a relief from worries and woes.

After a short time though, I noticed something. When I was going about my normal work and school, words which I had heard on that program were coming back to my mind. Those words and thoughts included some content that ran contrary to the sacred covenants which I had made in holy settings. These were thoughts that would make it difficult to stay spiritually minded.

When I made the connection that these changes in my thinking occurred about the same time that I began watching the program, I stopped watching the program.

Maybe I was lucky.

Don’t get me wrong… entertainment should provide a stress relief from reality! And to tell a good story, sometimes you have to show confrontations of evil and good. I agree.

The respected pioneer prophet Brigham Young said:

“Upon the stage of a theater can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to shun it.

“Tragedy is favored by the outside world; I am not in favor of it. I do not wish murder and all its horrors and the villainy leading to it portrayed before our women and children; I do not want the child to carry home with it the fear of . . . the sword, the pistol, or the dagger, and suffer in the night from frightful dreams. I want such plays performed as will make the spectators feel well; and I wish those who perform to select a class of plays that will improve the public mind, and exalt the literary taste of the community” (Discourses of Brigham Young; selected by John A. Widtsoe; 1941; pgs 243-244).

So what is my point to today? That the portrayal of violence, sexual permissiveness, and innuendo does make a difference.

The consumption of violence, sexual permissiveness, and innuendo also makes a difference.

I’ve recently been hearing the argument that “I watch violent movies, and I’m not going on a killing spree!” or “I play first-person shooter video games, and it is a great way to relax and unwind.”

Well, maybe you think that you can sit on the shore, dip your toes in the water, and not get swept up by the current. I firmly believe that if you are embracing such an activity, and telling yourself that you are stronger or wiser or better than to be caught in any bad outcome – that this won’t hurt me in any way – you are not being truthful with yourself.

The Apostle John taught, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (New Testament | 1st John 1:8).

Even if a bad result really doesn’t happen directly in your mind and heart, your acceptance of the product is evident. As popularity in the product grows, society accepts it. The culture embraces it. As it is looked upon as acceptable, younger people will join in too.

The portrayal of violence and immorality in music, entertainment, art, and other media has become constant and consistent. Society as a whole has come to accept the entertainment as harmless fun. The individual moral conscience that might tell people that such violence is wrong simply won’t exist for many people, because there is no voice to support it.

Nobody expresses their shock that the movie depicted killing of innocent people, but they express their shock when individuals do so in reality.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

No man is an island. Your acceptance of violent entertainment will lead to the approval of others in your spear of influence.

It only grows from there, like a snowball rolling down a hill.

Why should advertising be placed in and around the violent product be expected to influence our thought and behavior, but the violent product itself be believed to have no effect?

Society is beyond anyone’s ability to reign in the problem. However, as an individual, you can reverse the process in your own life, and your spear of influence can be felt by encouraging those around you to do the same.

As I learned in my brief journey watching that television show, I can recognize that it was harmful and I can stop. I have control over my own life and decisions. Likewise, you have control over yours.

As I once learned from an entertainment venue: “Real rewards await those who choose wisely.”

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