Navigating (and Surviving) the 'Upsidedown'
In an upsidedown culture, positive and enriching behavior is too often ignored or rejected.
Just look at the rise and prevalence of reality TV — an entertainment genre that is many times characterized by a lack of self-control, bizarre behavior and negative commentary.
While it's encouraging to see more positive options in entertainment, the reality is that much of what's on TV and in theaters is increasingly getting darker. And everything — from our everyday interactions to our politics — has been impacted by the madness.
What's most striking about Proverbs 15 are the parallels between the warnings and guidance Solomon gives and the current state of our entertainment, particularly reality-based television.
Proverbs 15 opens with a proclamation: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
This is common sense, but many of the TV shows that dominate popular networks thrive off of negative behavior, anger, fighting, booze-infused rage and a plethora of related behaviors.
We reward insane statements and actions in entertainment...and then wonder why they are increasingly manifesting themselves in the real world. The reality is: we're not meant to behave or speak that way.
Don't believe me? Solomon sprinkles in some other related advice that's worth exploring:
A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. - Proverbs 15:18 (NIV)
The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. - Proverbs 15:28 (NIV)
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4 (NIV)
The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not upright. - Proverbs 15:7
Reading and reflecting on these verses is essential, especially for a culture that is increasingly hostile, divisive, chaotic and disconnected.
People will debate how much impact our entertainment has had on our civility, but the reality is: much of what is being presented is either encouraging, praising — or at least representing — unrestrained behaviors that run in opposition to goodness.
As we encourage people to act foolish and to serve themselves — all for our entertainment's sake — we forget that Solomon offers up a dire warning in Proverbs 15:10: "Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die."
In the end, wisdom should be our goal — not rage, not unrestrained behavior, not setting our own standards. And wisdom can only come from one place: the Lord. Everything we take in and everything we consume has an impact, not only on us, but on our culture at large.
But even if we argue that we're mature adults who aren't really colored by what we're watching or listening to and that we're merely enjoying ourselves by consuming this content, there's a convicting question worth asking: Should we really take joy from others' poor behaviors?
We can't control what Hollywood chooses to put out there, but we can manage what we're willing to let into our minds and hearts. Just some food for thought.
I'll leave you with this (Proverbs 15:33 - NIV): "Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor."
P.S.: I'm not perfect, I don't always watch what I should — and this is a struggle for me too.
Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1, Proverbs 2, Proverbs 3, Proverbs 4, Proverbs 5, Proverbs 6, Proverbs 7, Proverbs 8, Proverbs 9, Proverbs 10, Proverbs 11, Proverbs 12, Proverbs 13 and Proverbs 14. And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.