How Can I Keep Music in Its Place?
How important is music to you?
□ I can live without it.
□ I would die without it.
When do you listen to music?
□ When traveling
□ When studying
□ All the time
What is your favorite style of music, and why? ․․․․․
THE capacity to enjoy melody and harmony appears to be programmed into all of us. And for many youths, music is a must-have. “I can’t live without it,” says 21-year-old Amber. “My music is almost always playing—even when I’m cleaning, cooking, running errands, or studying.”
Rhythm may be based on simple math, but music transcends cold logic and taps straight into our core emotions. Just as “a word at its right time is O how good!” a song at the right time can be so consoling! (Proverbs 15:23) “Sometimes you think that no one else understands your feelings,” says 16-year-old Jessica. “But when I listen to my favorite band, I know I’m not the only one who gets depressed.”
Battleground or Common Ground?
While you no doubt love your music, your parents may have a different viewpoint. “My dad says, ‘Turn off that noise! It’s hurting my ears!’” comments one teenage boy. Tired of the hassle, you may feel that your parents are making a big deal out of nothing. “What about when they were young?” argues one teenage girl. “Didn’t their parents think their music was bad?” Ingred, 16, complains: “Adults seem to be stuck in the past. It would be great if they recognized that our generation has some taste in music too!”
Ingred has a point. As you may know, throughout history, older and younger generations have tended to clash over matters of personal taste. But such differences don’t mean that the subject of music must always become a battleground. The key is to see if you can find some common ground with your parents. If your parents respect the Bible, you have a real advantage. Why? Because God’s Word can help both you and your parents to discern what is definitely unacceptable and where there is room for personal taste. To do this, you need to analyze two key factors: (1) the message of the music you listen to and (2) the amount of music you listen to. First, let’s consider the question . . .
What Is the Message of My Music?
Music is like food. The right type in the right amount is good for you. The wrong type in any amount is bad. Unfortunately, with music it’s the bad stuff that can be the most appealing. “Why do all the good tunes get saved for the really ugly lyrics?” laments a youth named Steve.
If you love the sound, does the message really matter? To help answer that question, ask yourself: ‘If someone wanted to make me swallow poison, how would they coax me into taking it? Would they dip it in vinegar or coat it with candy?’ The faithful man Job asked: “Does not the ear itself test out words as the palate tastes food?” (Job 12:11) So rather than just swallowing a song because you like its beat or melody—the candy coating, so to speak—‘test out the words’ by considering the title and the lyrics. Why? Because the lyrics embedded in the music will affect your thinking and attitudes.
Regrettably, a great deal of today’s most innovative music features lyrics that promote sex, violence, and drug abuse. If you don’t feel that listening to such lyrics affects you, then you’ve already started to succumb to the “poison.”
Think for Yourself
Your peers may put tremendous pressure on you to listen to degrading music. There’s also pressure from the music industry itself. With the help of radio, the Internet, and television, music has become a powerful, multibillion-dollar industry. High-powered marketing experts are hired to shape and control your taste in music.
But when you let your peers or the media dictate what you listen to, you lose your power of choice. You become a mindless slave. (Romans 6:16) The Bible urges you to resist the world’s influence in such matters. (Romans 12:2) So you would do well to train your own “perceptive powers . . . to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) How can you use your perceptive powers when choosing music? Consider the following suggestions:
Examine the packaging. Often, one look at the packaging or promotional material is enough to determine the content. Violent, sexually explicit, or occult images should be a warning. The music inside is probably objectionable too.
Check out the lyrics. What is being said? Do you really want to listen to or repeat those ideas over and over again? Are the thoughts expressed in harmony with your values and with Christian principles?—Ephesians 5:3-5.
Notice the effect. “I found that a lot of the music and lyrics I listened to made me depressed,” says a youth named Philip. Granted, music may affect people in different ways. But what mood does your music nurture in you? Ask yourself: ‘Do I find myself dwelling on wrong thoughts after hearing the music or the lyrics? Are slang expressions that are used in the music starting to creep into my vocabulary?’—1 Corinthians 15:33.
Consider others. How do your parents feel about your music? Ask them for their opinion. Think, too, of how fellow Christians might feel. Would some be disturbed by your music? The ability to modify your behavior out of respect for the feelings of others is a sign of maturity.—Romans 15:1, 2.
By asking yourself the above questions, you will be in a position to choose music that stirs your spirit without killing your spirituality. But there’s one more factor to consider.
How Much Is Too Much?
Good music, like good food, can be healthful. However, a wise proverb warns: “Is it honey that you have found? Eat what is sufficient for you, that you may not take too much of it and have to vomit it up.” (Proverbs 25:16) Honey has well-known curative properties. Yet, too much of even a good thing can be bad for you. The point? Good things should be enjoyed in moderation.
Some youths, however, allow music to dominate their lives. For example, Jessica, quoted earlier, confesses: “I listen to music all the time—even when I’m studying the Bible. I tell my parents that it helps me to concentrate. But they don’t believe me.” Does Jessica’s comment sound familiar?
How can you determine how much music is too much? Ask yourself the following questions:
How much time do I spend listening to music each day? ․․․․․
How much money do I spend on music each month? ․․․․․
Is my music interfering with my family relationships? If so, write below how you might improve the situation. ․․․․․
Modifying Your Listening Habits
If music is taking too much of a bite out of your personal life, you would do well to set limits and be more moderate in your listening habits. For example, you may need to break the habit of plugging your ears with headphones all day long or turning music on the minute you get home.
In fact, why not learn to savor some periods of silence? Doing so may help you with your studies. “You’ll get a whole lot more out of them if the music is off,” says Steve, quoted earlier. Try studying without music, and see if your concentration improves.
You will also want to schedule time for reading and studying the Bible and Bible-based publications. Jesus Christ at times sought out a quiet place for prayer and meditation. (Mark 1:35) Is your study environment similarly quiet and peaceful? If not, you may be stunting your spiritual growth.
Make the Right Choice
Music is truly a gift from God, but you must take care not to misuse it. Don’t be like the girl named Marlene who admits: “I have music that I know I’m supposed to throw out. But it sounds so good.” Think of the harm that she is doing to her mind and heart by listening to what is bad! Avoid that snare. Don’t let music corrupt you or take over your life. Hold to high Christian standards in choosing your music. Pray for God’s guidance and help. Seek out companions who share your convictions.
Music can help you relax and unwind. It can help fill the void when you’re lonely. But when the music stops, your problems are still there. And songs are no substitute for real friends. So don’t allow music to become the big thing in your life. Enjoy it, but keep it in its place.
You need to relax once in a while. How can Bible principles help you to make the most of the good times?
“Does not the ear itself test out words as the palate tastes food?”—Job 12:11.
If you want your parents to understand why you like a certain song or band, take the initiative to try to develop an appreciation for some of the music they enjoy.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
If you’re reluctant to let your parents hear your favorite tunes, it could be a sign that something is wrong with your taste in music.
I can control my music if I ․․․․․
If my peers pressure me to listen to unacceptable music, I will say ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why is your choice of music so important?
● How can you determine if a song is acceptable or not?
● What can you do to broaden your taste in music?
[Blurb on page 259]
“I sometimes catch myself listening to a song that I know isn’t good for me. I turn it off immediately. If I don’t, I find that I start to justify listening to it.”—Cameron
[Box/Pictures on page 258]
Broaden Your Taste in Music
Do you like more types of food now than you did when you were five years old? If so, that’s because you have acquired a taste for new flavors. It’s similar with music. Don’t limit yourself to just one style. Try expanding your taste in music.
One way to do so is to learn to play an instrument. Not only can this be challenging and satisfying but it may expose you to other forms of music besides the usual commercial fodder. Where might you find the time to learn? You could buy out time from watching TV or playing electronic games. Note what these youths say.
“Playing an instrument is a lot of fun and can be a great way to express your feelings. Learning to play new songs has taught me to like a broad range of musical styles.”—Brian, 18, plays guitar, drums, and piano.
“You need to practice if you want to learn to play an instrument well. And practice isn’t always fun. But mastering a piece of music gives you a good feeling, a sense of accomplishment.”—Jade, 13, plays the viola.
“When I’m having a hard day or I’m feeling down, playing my guitar really helps me to relax. It feels so good to create music that is pleasurable and soothing.”—Vanessa, 20, plays guitar, piano, and clarinet.
“I used to think, ‘I’ll never be as good as this person or that person.’ But I stuck with my lessons, and now I feel real satisfaction when I play a piece of music well. I also have an increased appreciation for the skill of other musicians.”—Jacob, 20, plays guitar.
[Picture on page 255]
Music is like food. The right type in the right amount is good for you. The wrong type in any amount is bad