Are They Corrupting Your Heart?
THOSE we choose as “friends” can affect our heart. Proverbs chapter seven describes a young man who was associating with an immoral married woman. His emotions surged by listening to “the smoothness of her lips.” He committed adultery with her. But what led to such an act? Pr 7 Verse 25 warns others: “May your heart not turn aside to her ways.” His heart was misled by his association.
What kind of characters have been portrayed in the serials? A minister who cheats on his wife; a rapist; a prostitute; an unwed mother who shot her lover because he was sleeping with her mother; and on and on. Adultery is commonplace, as are abortion and illegitimate pregnancies.
Is this the “circle of friends” you want to influence your heart? If these were your neighbors, would you invite them into your home and gleefully listen as they described their escapades?
“What right do you have to enumerate my regulations?” asked Jehovah of those who claimed to be his people. “Whenever you saw a thief, you were even pleased with him; and your sharing was with adulterers.” (Psalm 50:16, 18) Do not fool yourself. “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20.
“But not all the characters are overtly bad,” reported one Christian housewife. “I could readily identify with one who really was a good person. She was what I wanted to be. I imitated her personality.” Using soap characters as “role models” is commonplace. But should a Christian do so?
Rather than encouraging Christians to imitate the conduct of people who are in “darkness mentally” and morally corrupt, the apostle Paul told fellow believers: “You did not learn the Christ to be so, provided, indeed, that you heard him and were taught by means of him, just as truth is in Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:17-21) A dedicated Christian must concentrate on, be instructed by, the example of Jesus, or of those who closely follow the same pattern as approved servants of God. Other models have proved to be traps.—1 Corinthians 11:1; Hebrews 11:1–12:2; 1 Peter 2:21.
Hearts Enticed in Secrecy
The faithful man Job admitted how easily his heart could be enticed by what he watched. “If I used to see the light when it would flash forth, or the precious moon walking along, and my heart began to be enticed in secrecy . . . , that too would be an error for attention by the justices,” confessed Job.a A view of the starry heavens, with the moon beaming, is touching. But Job’s neighbors worshiped the moon as a symbol of fertility. Alluring sex orgies were often a part of moon worship. If Job constantly thought about these his ‘hand would have proceeded to kiss his mouth’ in an act of worship. His heart could have become more open and permissive, to the point that idolatry would not have seemed so bad. But he caught himself.—Job 31:26-28.
Television serials are just as subtle. The search for love is used to justify any conduct. For instance, one unwed pregnant youth says to a friend: “But I love Victor. I don’t care. I’ll lie, cheat and steal to be with him. He’s worth it. Victor’s worth any cost. To have his baby is worth everything to me!” The soft background music makes it hard to consider her course to be so bad. You too like Victor. You feel sympathy for the girl. You “understand.” “It is amazing how you can rationalize,” stated one viewer who later came to her senses. “We know that immorality is bad. . . . But I realized that mentally I was taking part.”
However, some feel that ‘what is shown is no worse than what you see in everyday life.’ But is this what a Christian should choose in order to be entertained? The apostle Paul wrote: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3) Was Paul unrealistic? No. The point he was making was that Christians should not be entertained by discussing such sordid acts. This applies also to genuine “holy people” today.
Minds and Hearts Corrupted
Some in the first-century Corinthian congregation were defiled, no, not by television, but by false apostles. According to second-century professed Christian Irenaeus, these apostates claimed: “For even as gold, when submersed in filth, loses not on that account its beauty . . . so they affirm that they cannot in any measure suffer hurt, or lose their spiritual substance, whatever the material actions in which they may be involved.” So these ones associated with unbelievers, attended the cruel gladiatorial games and even committed sexual immorality.
The apostle Paul charged that the Corinthian Christians “easily put up” with false teachers, and Paul feared that, “as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning,” the minds of the Corinthians would subtly “be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” This subtle doctrinal corruption led to moral corruption.—2 Corinthians 11:4, 3.
The Corinthian congregation was even willing to tolerate an incestuous relationship by one of its own members! Perhaps this immoral man was one who was admired by those in the congregation. Their hearts “understood.” He had found “real love”! Others in the congregation might possibly have been influenced by his wrongdoing and also engaged in uncleanness, fornication and even brazen loose conduct.—1 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 6; 2 Corinthians 12:21.
Would you want your heart to be similarly corrupted? Do you easily put up with adulterers, fornicators, murderers and the like by daily being absorbed in their lives? Regardless of how firm we may be in the way of the truth our hearts can subtly be affected by a steady diet of material that justifies immorality.
“You think that it doesn’t bother you,” said one Christian woman who was a regular viewer of soap operas for years. “But in the deep part of your heart you are accepting the wrongdoing. You see things that you want. And if your husband isn’t as affectionate as those you see on the soap operas, you feel that something is missing.”
This Christian woman who had developed an appetite for these TV soap operas let her guard down to the extent of committing immorality. She was immediately cut to the heart and eventually gained the forgiveness of her husband and the congregation. But what an emotional scar! “Everything was fine until the circumstances made it possible to indulge in what I had stored in my heart,” she admitted. “Satan set a trap and I walked right into it. Do not be fooled, soaps can affect you. I hear some say that they are strong enough to handle them. Well, time will tell.” Even after this tragedy she found it difficult to stop viewing them. “It was worse than trying to stop smoking,” she concluded.
Of course, most viewers do not become involved in immorality simply by watching these shows. However, could you begin comparing your mate to the characters on the show? Will this strengthen love or foster doubts? If unmarried, will it increase your desire for a mate, perhaps leading to an unwise marriage or to immorality? Could you experience needless mood swings?
The apostle Paul wrote: “All things are lawful for me; . . . but I will not let myself be brought under authority [enslaved] by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) The addictive nature of the serials is well attested. Some Christians have neglected congregation meetings and their ministry, rushed through household duties, skipped school, neglected personal and family Bible study—all to catch the serial. Should not these persons take an honest look at the amount of time they devote to such viewing?
Of course, this is true no matter what one watches, but the special danger of the serials is that they grab your heart so that you have to see the next daily episode. Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, a psychologist who was quoted in a serial fan magazine, admitted: “Research testifies that television does affect our behavior and influences thinking. . . . A person who stays home and watches shows regularly may form too strong an identification with the characters. They let soaps become an extension of their lives, and they can become neurotic about never missing an episode.”
One Christian woman who fell into the bad habit of regularly watching the serials became quite depressed. She confided in a fellow Witness who encouraged her to spend more time in the Christian ministry helping others. “Working with others in the field ministry became a joy,” reported the woman. “I was not depressed because I did not have to worry about other people’s problems. I was starting to fill my life with something satisfying. The soaps were no longer important. I became a full-time evangelizer.” Many have found such stepped-up sacred service to be the answer.—Compare Revelation 7:15.
Some have solved the problem by becoming more involved in caring for household duties, devoting more attention to the spiritual and physical welfare of their children. Since most of us like to become involved with other people, some have shared spiritual and material gifts. You do not have to be wealthy. Often just baking some special goody for a friend can be very rewarding.—Proverbs 31:10-31.
“Now I know what I had been missing,” confessed a former soap-opera addict. “Personal study and prayer. Philippians 4:6-9 concerning prayer and clean thoughts really helped me. Now I start the day with the daily text and some other Bible literature. Jehovah has provided plenty of real-life dramas in the Bible, such as the accounts of Jesus, Job, David and others. Or I consider the experiences of modern-day Witnesses. Though there is still a little part in me just dying to find out ‘what’s going on’ with the soaps, my desire to obey Jehovah stops me.”
Yes, it really comes down to our desire to please Jehovah from our heart. This is not to say that all TV programs are corrupting. However, a Christian must be selective, for experience has shown that programs that justify the violation of Bible standards can corrupt a Christian’s heart.
“O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” (Psalm 97:10) To obey this command is not always easy. Our heart has to be carefully protected. May all of us feel as did King David: “I shall walk about in the integrity of my heart inside my house. I shall not set in front of my eyes any good-for-nothing thing. The doing of those who fall away I have hated; it does not cling to me [like a daily habit]. My eyes are upon the faithful ones of the earth.”—Psalm 101:2, 3, 6.
a The Hebrew word translated “enticed” basically means “to open, to expand.”
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A steady diet of material that justifies immorality can corrupt one’s moral standards
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‘I know what I had been missing—personal study and prayer.’—A former soap-opera addict