In the early days of computers, when we were just getting used to having them around, there was a common saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.” This meant if programming was faulty, computers would not perform as desired. They either would malfunction or not operate at all. Today almost everyone has a computer and non-techies like me don’t worry much about programming. But the adage is still true.
If you install flawed software on your computer, or the existing software becomes corrupted (perhaps by bad company?), you’re going to become very distressed. Computers are supposed to do what we want them to do; when they don’t, we’re tempted to express some words that aren’t suitable around children or at formal social gatherings.
Speaking of which, I’ve heard the recently released Martin Scorsese film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” is being called the “swearingest film” of all time, employing the f-word more than 500 times. (Who was responsible for the official count, I don’t know, but that’s not a job I’d want.) Based on the length of the film, the word was used, on average, about every 20 seconds!
I haven’t seen the film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, and won’t. Why pay good money to be bombarded by dialogue that sounds like someone gargled with dirty toilet water? My mind is exposed to enough garbage during the course of an ordinary day. I don’t need to go to a theater and buy some more.
Hollywood seems so very fond of the so-called “f-bomb.” In some quarters the film aristocracy apparently regard it as sophisticated, cool, or something like that. I think it’s simply an excuse for lazy, unimaginative script writing and cesspool thinking that masquerades as “creativity.” It also shows a lack of respect for many members of the viewing public.
There might be occasions when using profanity can be justified. But when usage of a word that’s unacceptable in most public settings is spewed excessively, at machine-gun pace, how can that be excused? Maybe that’s how those directors and actors speak in private as well, so for them it seems normal. In that case, I won’t be inviting them over for dinner.
As Proverbs 4:24 wisely advises, “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” Ephesians 4:29 adds, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Granted, in moments of anger or frustration a profane word might slip out, but when such words become as common as periods at the end of sentences, something’s awry. It’s to no one’s benefit.
But the larger issue – that of garbage in, garbage out – goes far beyond motion picture dialogue. We need to take care in how we “program” our minds in every way. Romans 12:2 admonishes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Each day our minds are renewed, influenced and shaped by what we allow to filter into them.
I frequent some social media sites, but have noticed if we’re not careful, gossip and negativity that make up much of the content we read can undermine our thought patterns. Some people apparently ascribe to the motto, “If you can't think of something bad to say, don’t say anything at all.” So I try to avoid “friends” like that.
Years ago I was an avid reader of horror novels and stories about the occult. I enjoyed a good scare. But after my pastor gave a sermon about the occult, I asked his opinion of my reading preference. He didn’t respond with judgment, but simply replied, “Well, when you read those books, are they pointing you to God – or away from Him.”
Thinking about what he said, I realized that whenever I was reading books like that my tension level would increase, interactions with other people became harsh, and the pervasive language that typified such novels certainly wasn’t helping my own speech to be “edifying,” as the Bible describes it. They definitely weren’t pointing me toward God.
I often wonder about the extreme violence depicted in many video games today, all in the name of “entertainment.” If it’s entertaining to immerse yourself in a virtual experience in which people are killed, blown up and maimed, is it any surprise that at least some of the perpetrators of mass violence have histories of having been engrossed in such “games”?
The human mind has often been described as the most complex, sophisticated and wondrous computer ever observed. But as with electronic computers and tablets, programming makes all the difference in how our cerebral computers operate: How we think, the way we act, and what we say.
How are you programming your mind today?
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.