Minister's Corner: Think on these things

William Simpson
Supervisor of pastoral/spiritual care, St. Anthony Hospital Shawnee

One Monday morning a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that the annual Academy Awards show had been broadcast the night before. I don’t remember the last time I watched the event, but I’d always seemed to know it was coming up. This year, though, I didn’t know when it was, who or what was nominated, nothing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sorry I missed it. In fact, if anything, I was pretty pleased to have avoided all the hype. And, apparently, I’m not the only one. It seems viewership has been dropping like a rock. In fact, this year’s broadcast drew 56% fewer viewers than the previous low…which was just last year.

One factor in my ability to escape it is something I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for everyone. If my Oscar-less experience is any indication, though, it seems to be working really well for me. I’ve quit watching most news and talk shows, and I’ve dialed way back on what I read online. Of course, I still try and catch the local news and weather. After all, it’s spring in Oklahoma, and watching the weather is simply a matter of self-preservation!

I don’t feel like I’m missing much, though. If anything, I’m glad to miss some of it. And, truth be told, I think I’m better off for it. I’ve been reminded how important it is for me to be selective about what I take in, because it has a direct impact on how I think and how I act.

Now, before you think me noble or self-sacrificing, know I’m neither. I didn’t change my media habits to change my thinking. I did it because I was tired – tired of the constant arguing, bragging, and manipulating. So, no, I’m no martyr. But I’ve benefitted from the changes I made, nonetheless.

In the realms of computer science and mathematics (places I don’t spend a lot of time, quite honestly), there is the acronym GIGO. Quite literally, GIGO means, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” In other words, if the input data is corrupt, the output data will also be corrupt.

The same concept holds true outside science and math, too. Those things that tend to occupy our thoughts will have a direct impact on how we think and how we treat those around us. If our focus tends to dwell on argumentative, negative, or mean things, we won’t likely be known as kind and caring. If we focus on being judgmental, we won’t likely be known for treating others with grace.

The apostle Paul put it something like this in his letter to the Philippian church:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Phil. 4:8 MSG).

Now, neither Paul nor I are suggesting we should wander around ignorant of the world around us. This is not a call to be deluded or uninformed. But we each have the choice, every day, to affect the tone and the content of what we see and hear. And what we allow in will have a direct impact on what comes out. “Garbage in, garbage out.” Truth and beauty in, and truth and beauty are much more likely to come out.

For me, lessening my exposure to media has been a step in that direction. What will be your first step?