One morning I came to school feeling as one normally does when they arrive at school – lethargic, unmotivated, with a little dose of anticipation for what the day would hold. I trudged into my first period of study. While revising for a Math test, I was serenaded by the school choir rehearsing only a few doors away for an upcoming performance.
I left the room with a bounce in my step.
At lunch, I was fighting boredom and loneliness, when I couldn’t help but smile over an upbeat version of Waltzing Matilda someone was playing on one of the many pianos scattered around my school.
Music is powerful.
Over the past few years, I have grown to appreciate its power and have personally experienced both the positive and negative impact music can have.
The Power of Music
One of the brilliant yet difficult aspects of music is that it stays with you. Almost constantly, I have a song stuck in my head. The mood of that song shapes my mood, and therefore shapes my day. If it’s a cheerful song, I will most likely greet people with a smile. If it’s a depressive song, I’m more likely to grunt a hello.Music stays with you. When you have a song stuck in your head, the mood of that song shapes your mood, and therefore shapes your day. Click To Tweet
For several years, I was obsessed with Taylor Swift. I knew every lyric to every song and listened to every one of them whenever I had the chance. I was so obsessed with her catchy tunes and deep lyrics that I didn’t realize how it was affecting me. It seems obvious that an angsty song about heartbreak won’t exactly cause happiness, but I refused to make that connection.
To be honest, it took me four years to make the connection that listening to Taylor Swift affected me in a bad way – I was just that little bit grumpier, just that little bit more depressed.
I do want to emphasize, though: it’s not Taylor Swift who’s the problem – it’s my reaction to her music. She’s an incredible artist that I admire, but her music was specifically affecting me in a negative way. That may not be the case for everyone, but I came to recognize it was for me.
The Bible is full of music and affirms there are both positive and negative effects of music.
For example, Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Music is a way to thank God!
Although the link isn’t as direct, Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We should be careful what music we listen to – music inspired by the world, or music inspired by God.We should be careful what music we listen to – music inspired by the world, or music inspired by God. Click To Tweet
Managing Music’s Power
I’m not an expert, but I have learned several things over the past years about how to manage the power of music.
1. Don’t get caught up in the tune.
Examine the lyrics. What do they actually say? What principles are you affirming by embedding them into your mind while you’re off in fairy-land dancing along to the tune? Run the lyrics by this verse:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
2. Watch the way your mood changes after you listen to the music.
Maybe the music you listen to is considered Christian or it does fit with all those guidelines above. But how is it affecting you?
1 Corinthians 6:12 tells us, “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.”
3. Gradually improve the music you listen to.
My mum phrases it like this, “don’t go cold turkey.” Once I recognized the way certain music affected me, it wasn’t immediately that I stopped listening to it. It was another several years before I completely stopped listening to that music.
I would set goals: don’t listen to music while working on assignments; only listen to music for one hour on the road trip; don’t listen to music when I could be talking to people; don’t listen to this certain artist today—goals I didn’t always meet but would push me along the road of improving my music choices. Choices that improved my mood.
Strength to Change the Tune
One of my favourite Christian bands, for KING & COUNTRY, begins their hit song ‘Shoulders’ with these lyrics from Psalm 121 called ‘A Song of Ascents’:
I look up to the mountains
Does my strength come from the mountains?
No, my strength comes from God
Who made heaven and earth, and the mountains.
Finding the strength to stop listening to music I loved was hard, and it will likely be hard for you, too. What a good reminder that our strength to change the tune doesn’t come from ourselves or anything else on this earth. It comes from our strong God Who is faithful to give it.