When I was growing up in the 1980’s it was common among youth groups to hear talk about “GIGO”. This was an acronym for “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. It was based in the new world of computing and a short-handed way to try and make us teenagers cautious of what we absorbed from the culture around us. Of course we (or maybe it was just me!) largely ignored it. Maybe it was the naiveté of youth. But it was more likely my bull-headishness that believed that they were just being alarmist.
But 30 years later I do see some wisdom in this principle, especially in light of the sheer amount of material (be it social media, news, or entertainment) coming at us today. Our tendency, I think, is to take it as it comes to us from the digital assembly line. Therefore we often drift along with the rest of the culture without applying the filter a principle like GIGO suggests.
Why does this matter? As a Priest it matters to me because I see the effect this has on our lives -our anxiousness, anger, and fear. All of those, by the way, drive profits–either in clicks or advertising dollars. As a Priest it matters to me where sexual struggles are real and the relationship between men and women is strained and unmoored–largely by objectification and demonization.
I am not coming at this as a prude or as a Puritan. If you only knew how “un-prudish” I am! And I have way too much fun to be a Puritan!
My encouragement to you comes from the conviction that God wants more for you and me. It comes from the belief that we are called to live differently and not drift along taking in whatever comes our way. I say this because I believe the “peace of God that passes understanding” is hard to hang onto when our minds are held captive by garbage that is incongruent with our spiritual lives. Holy moly. It’s GIGO!
Here’s what I suggest as a way to begin to stop your mental drift.
Become aware of what you are taking in. What are you watching and listening to? What effect does it have on you? Does it incite anger? Lust? Greed? Envy? Judgementalism? I know this show or that show is popular. But is it helpful for you as a disciple?
Become aware of what you are focusing on. Where’s your head when nothing is going on? Sometimes I find myself drifting into a place of frustration or of rehashing old wounds or of imaginary conflicts and how I’d silence my opponent. This is often where what you take in effects you the most. You tend to get mired down in where your digital diet takes you.
Become aware of what you are putting out. Are you contributing positively or negatively to the community? By that I mean is your faith being reflected in what you’re you saying in conversation (in person or digitally)? Like you, I have seen some of the very hateful, biting and mean posts made by the same people who’ll post a Bible verse and claim Christ as their Lord in their next post.
I’m not Victorian in my approach to all this. I go to the movies, engage on Facebook and Twitter, watch Netflix, and enjoy my rock-n-roll.
But I do believe that we can and should be selective. We cause ourselves a lot of angst by ignoring the call to “take captive” our thoughts (2 Cor 10:5) and miss out on the life Christ has in mind for us (John 10:10). Just start by becoming aware. As the Lord leads you, make changes. I believe you’ll find that it will make a real difference in your spiritual life.