Beware of the Power of Evil Suggestions
JUST how easily a human being can be influenced by suggestions is not generally appreciated. The extreme case, of course, is that of hypnotism, the power of which borders on the uncanny. Yet, even aside from hypnotism, it is noteworthy what has been learned about the suggestibility of people.
By way of experiment, a group of adults were asked to close their eyes and then were told over and over again that they were falling. The result? Nearly all of them began to sway at least a few inches and some lost their sense of balance entirely and fell to the floor. Other research has revealed that persons even while under ether on an operating table were adversely affected by injudicious remarks made by the medical personnel.
This human characteristic of being susceptible to suggestion can also be used in a beneficial way. It is a great aid in influencing people to do what is right. Nowhere, in fact, is appreciation of this truth more apparent than in the pages of the Holy Bible. From beginning to end it contains such suggestions as, “Be courageous and strong,” and, “Let us” do this, that or the other thing. Thus we read: “Let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out. Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all.”—Deut. 31:6; Gal. 6:9, 10.
At the same time the Bible warns us against following the bad suggestions of others: “My son, if sinners try to seduce you, do not consent. If they keep saying: ‘Do go with us. Do let us lie in ambush for blood,’” and so forth, “do not go in the way with them.” The same Bible writer, King Solomon, also warns against the blandishments of a wicked woman. (Prov. 1:10-19; 5:3-14) Not without good reason do Bible lovers who are interested in your highest welfare suggest that you ‘read God’s Word the Bible daily.’ Doing so will most likely have a good influence upon you by reason of its examples and suggestions, even apart from its specific commands.
Indeed, for us to read an interesting account of a noble deed well done is of itself a suggestion ‘to go our way and be doing the same ourselves.’ Doubtless the many fine examples or illustrations that Jesus gave, such as that of the neighborly Samaritan and the prodigal son, have served to influence countless Bible lovers to be more understanding and compassionate, more merciful and more helpful in dealing with others.—Luke 10:29-37; 15:11-32.
If good can and does follow from fine suggestions, how can it be otherwise than that bad will result from evil suggestions? That is why ever so many Americans were scandalized with the report made by a presidential commission appointed to investigate pornography. After devoting three years and spending $2,000,000, the majority of the commission said that they did not consider pornography a threat to the well-being of the nation. (Readers Digest, January 1971) However, outraged minority members of the commission warned against the harm that could result from such a report, as well as exposing the unscientific methods by which such a conclusion was reached.—U.S. News & World Report, February 22, 1971.
It might well be asked, What accounts for the lure of pornography and why should one beware of it? It is due to the sin of our first parents that “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Gen. 8:21) These bad inclinations feed on, and are strengthened by, what reaches the mind and heart through the senses. When we let the newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the movies fill our minds with sexual immorality, we are feeding these inherited bad inclinations and making them ever stronger and harder to control. By doing so we are also weakening our loyalties to God, to truth, to righteousness and to our neighbor.
Thus the New York Times, December 27, 1972, carried a report on what a leading New York psychiatrist thought of a “hardcore” pornographic film. Among other things, he stated: “It will not enlighten the viewer; on the contrary, it will blind him to the true nature of female sexuality.” He also noted that, while some might not be harmed by viewing such a picture, most likely for the majority the film would “confuse them and produce sex fantasies of an unhealthy nature.”
Keenly aware of the great harm that pornography can and does do are such members of the medical profession as Dr. C. A. Domz, a California internist. Writing in a leading medical journal, he chose the theme: “Doctors against pornography: Who’ll join me?” Referring to his own experiences, he warned of the harm that young women were doing to their bodies because of their being “enthusiastic about today’s sexual revolution.” Wrote Domz: “As I initiated treatment [for a cervical oozing], I wondered whether Nancy was emancipated or just victimized [by her boy ‘friends’]. Physicians are treating more and more sick girls like her, performing more abortions, and coping with a pandemic of venereal disease. All this free sex does not come free of consequences.” He underscored that for sex to bring happiness it must be within marriage and have associated with it giving, caring, helping and loving. If knowledge alone were the key, he went on to say, no educated man would be obese or an alcoholic. “The key is self-restraint, self-control, or that ugly old word, discipline.”
That is why the apostle Paul, who was fully aware of the power of unhealthy suggestions, wrote: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, . . . neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting.” And since, as a Chinese proverb puts it, “a vacant mind is open to all suggestions,” the course of wisdom is to keep the mind filled with “whatever things are true, . . . whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of.”—Eph. 5:3, 4; Phil. 4:8.