Will You Make Wise Choices?
“My parents’ music is totally boring,” complains 17-year-old Jordan.*
“My son’s music is full of angst and anger,” laments his mother, Denise.
WHY do parents and teens often clash over music? One factor is that tastes may change as people grow older. Another is that music itself changes. Thus, what is popular today may be out of style tomorrow.
Whatever the case, music influences us. Have you noticed how music affects your emotions? When King Saul of ancient Israel felt troubled, soothing music calmed him. (1 Samuel 16:23) In some ways, songs can be like the people we associate with. Some bring out our positive emotions, such as happiness and love. Others dredge up bad feelings, such as anger and hatred.—Proverbs 13:20.
Since music exerts such a powerful influence, parents and children are wise to be selective in the music they choose. If you are a parent, do you take a genuine interest in the listening habits of your children and teenagers? Do you set standards?
That does not mean simply forbidding certain albums or kinds of music. You should also help your teens to choose acceptable alternatives. The book On Becoming Teenwise states: “You can’t just take away something someone cares deeply for and leave a vacuum. There has to be a substitute, something new for the person to put in its place, or he will go back to the old ways.”
Another factor to consider is this: How much time do your children spend listening to music? Does that time intrude on time that should be spent on more important things, such as homework, spiritual activities, or responsibilities in the home? As the Bible says, “for everything there is an appointed time.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1.
Isolation can be another problem. Of course, we all need our privacy and should make time for quiet contemplation so that we do not become shallow, or superficial. (Psalm 1:2, 3) Taken to an extreme, though, isolation can cause a person to become self-absorbed and selfish. (Proverbs 18:1) Felipe, now 20, viewed listening to music as his ‘alone time.’ “But my mother,” he says, “was concerned that I was isolating myself.”
What can help young people like Felipe and their parents to turn a potential battleground into common ground? How can all of us make wise choices in music? Many have found that Bible principles help. Why not consider the following three questions with your children?
● What message does the music convey? “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you.” (Ephesians 5:3) Many songs have innocent lyrics. But others, either subtly or openly, approve of or even promote behavior that violates wholesome values, such as Bible principles. Indeed, some musical genres are known for depravity, hatred, and violence. “Rap lyrics are occasionally shocking, sometimes brutal, and rife with misogyny and obscenities,” says author Karen Sternheimer. Heavy-metal lyrics often include violence and the occult. Even mainstream pop music may promote questionable behavior. So when choosing music, use “your power of reason” to make wise choices. (Romans 12:1) Do not just blindly go along with what is popular or has a good sound.
● How does the music affect my feelings? “Safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Your choice of music is more than just a window into your mind and heart revealing facets of the inner person. It can influence your mind and heart. “Listening to some types of music made me angry and aggressive,” says Jordan, quoted earlier. Ask yourself: ‘How does my music affect my thoughts and mood? Does it leave me feeling relaxed and refreshed or tense and upset? Does it arouse indecent thoughts?’ (Colossians 3:5) If a certain piece of music stirs up undesirable feelings or fosters improper thoughts, you would be wise to discard it. (Matthew 5:28, 29) Hannah, aged 17, says, “I see the damage that bad music does, and I want no part of it.”
● Will the music influence my values? “Hate what is bad, and love what is good,” says Amos 5:15. Nowadays, that is a challenge, for true to Bible prophecy, people in general are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Hence, verse 5 says: “From these turn away.”
How do you turn away from people like that? Obviously, you need to do more than just stay away from them in person. You must also reject products that reflect their godless ways. (Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31) But will that unduly limit your choice in music? Not at all!
Broaden Your Tastes
In many families, parents and teens enjoy exploring each other’s musical worlds. Says Lena, “My 13-year-old daughter introduced me to her favorite music, and now I like listening to it.” Heather, who is 16, and her parents enjoy each other’s music and regularly swap CDs.
Worldwide, millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses of all ages and cultures enjoy a wide variety of music, including the spiritually enriching melodies in the songbook Sing to Jehovah.* Yet, in some cultures the melodies differ from local styles.
Whether you are a parent or a teen, when you want to buy an album or download some music, why not ask yourself these questions: ‘Who gave me the capacity to enjoy music? Was it not my Creator, Jehovah God? Then how can I show him that I truly appreciate his gifts? Would it not be by placing a high value on his standards of right and wrong or what is wise or unwise?’ Reflecting on such questions will help you to choose your music wisely, thus bringing joy both to your heart and to the heart of your Creator.—Proverbs 27:11.
Some names have been changed.
Available for download at the Web site www.jw.org.
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Some musical genres are known for depravity
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There is a wide range of music that you can enjoy
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Why I Made Changes
“My teenage years were a blur of alcohol, drugs, and violence,” says Ashley, 24, “and the music that fueled it was heavy metal and rap. The profane, hate-filled lyrics and strong, driving beat made me feel powerful. The music also connected me to my drug-taking friends. Rappers and heavy-metal bands were our mentors and heroes.
“Soon, however, my life spiraled out of control. When I was 17, I nearly died of a drug overdose. When I woke up, I prayed to God for help. A boy had once told me that God’s name is Jehovah, which I associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses. So I picked up the telephone book, called the Witnesses, and started studying the Bible with them.
“I gave up my bad habits and threw out my music. But when I tossed my CDs in the trash, I stood there staring at them. My heart was torn. So I reminded myself that this music, along with my vices, was destroying me. I turned and walked away.
“Today, years later, I still feel drawn to heavy metal and rap. So I avoid them as if they were addictive drugs. Now I enjoy many other kinds of music, including ballads, easy rock, and some classical. But the best thing is that I am in control.”
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Helpful Hints for Parents
Does your child’s music give you cause for concern? How can you help him or her without starting a war? Consider these suggestions:
Be informed Before you speak, get the facts. Listen to the music, note the lyrics, and examine the packaging. Ask yourself, ‘Is there reason for concern, or am I being picky?’ The Bible says: “Intelligent people think before they speak; what they say is then more persuasive.”—Proverbs 16:23, Today’s English Version.
Be discerning Music can be a window into your child’s world and heart. Gently draw out his feelings. Ask: “What do you like about this music? Does it express any concerns you may have?” Then listen carefully to the reply. Says Proverbs 20:5: “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.”—TEV.
Be constructive Your goal is not just to get a teen to discard an unacceptable CD. Rather, you want to train his “perceptive powers . . . to distinguish both right and wrong” so that he can make wise decisions himself. (Hebrews 5:14) So give your child a lasting legacy: Teach him to do research and to reason on Bible principles. In this way, you will help him to develop both thinking ability and godly wisdom, which are far more valuable than all the gold in the world!—Proverbs 2:10-14; 3:13, 14.
Be firm, compassionate, and kind “Clothe [yourself] with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” (Colossians 3:12) When reasoning with your teen, do not be dogmatic or argumentative. Remember that you too were once a teenager.
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Maintain high standards when choosing music