“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV
Who are we to be? The question is a real and daily one for all of us. We struggle with who are we to be – in Christ – so that others will see Him, rather than our human, not-so-perfect selves. We read in Galatians 5:22-23, that the “fruit of the Spirit” is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience or tolerance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To make this more meaningful, try the wording of The Message:
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
Definitely the ideal! But the reality is that we live in a world where we are bombarded by conflicting ideas of what’s important and who we should be. The traditional “fruit of the Spirit” concept is watered down or – in some cases – stolen by pervasive and persuasive illustrations of who the culture wants us to be.
And what are we looking for in our interpersonal relationships? The characteristics depicted in books, movies, TV programs, advertisements, and video games can seem counter-productive to positive connections with friends, family members, co-workers, schoolmates, and neighbors. Some of our personality’s attributes may have been shaped by images and messages from our media infusion over the years. We’ve accumulated a “boatload” of examples of both good and bad relationships. Is our personal identity hidden, modified, or even stolen by our need to be what others expect us to be?
Even our social media interactions can determine our attitudes and behaviors by nudging us to “agree with” our peers. It’s called “virtue signaling”.
“Virtue signaling is an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media.
Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas or cultural happenings.” (dictionary.cambridge.org)
We long for and watch entertainment that excites, amuses, or compels us, regardless whether it’s virtuous. At the same time, we watch thousands of TV commercials and other forms of advertising that subtly teach us that smart-alec responses, put-downs, and white lies are acceptable and even the norm.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
• Speak up! When an inappropriate attribute is depicted in a TV show, commercial, or movie, take time to explain how this is unacceptable and harmful to relationships.
• Talk about why we need to care. Explain that a “so what?”, “I don’t care”, or “whatever!” attitude disengages us from caring about the well-being of ourselves and many others.
• List the attributes of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). Ask teens for examples from movies or TV shows that depict these qualities in relationships. Start by sharing an example your family has seen together.
• Consider how we accept overstatements, half-truths, and lies as part of the world of advertising. Ask, “Why do you think our culture has permitted advertisers to include exaggerations and misrepresentations without any consequences?”
• Discuss the importance of friendship and having a close relationship with others. Ask, “What qualities do you look for in a friend?” Match these with the list of the “fruit of the Spirit”.
• As a family, make a mission statement that reflects who you are and what your purpose in life is. Spend time honing this until all family members are in agreement. Then post this on the wall or in a prominent place to be seen every day by family and visitors.
Take a stand! Be people who exude integrity, kindness, and valor. “Virtue signal” what’s acceptable in the kingdom of our Lord.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org
Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org
© Summers 2020