Vice or Virtue? . . . .

My morning routine starts in our living room where I begin each day on our couch. Not a day passes when I don’t look up to my left at a picture frame that contains some kind of crafty visualization (sorry,I’m not exactly sure what the German-looking paper cutting in the frame is called)of a couple of verses that continue to grow in significance for me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5&6). It reminds me that I can choose to live life under the guidance and Lordship of the Creator, or I can choose to live my life under the guidance and lordship of any other number of things.

Yesterday I had one of those moments that brought those verses to mind in the context of concern and sadness. I was spending some time watching music videos on one of the many MTV outlets. . . one small practice that offers a window into the world of youth culture. Over the years I’ve seen my share of overt sexual expressions on MTV. Sadly, I think that in some ways the practice has left me desensitized and not much shocks me anymore. Even so, a trio of back-to-back-to-back videos hit me hard. First, there was Jamie Foxx, Kanye West, Drake, and The Dream’s “Digital Girl”. . . embedded below if you’re interested. Next came Pit Bull and “Hotel Room Service”. . . the most over-the-top and alarming of the three. Finally, Sean Paul’s “So Fine.” This normal everyday visual and lyrical fare filled my eyes, ears, heart, and mind with a smorgasbord of values regarding women, relationships, and sexuality. Suffice it to say, this was not the stuff of straight paths. I’m a 53-year-old man who has years behind him filled with experience, his own mistakes and misunderstandings, teaching on that straight path, some broken-in and practiced (yet, not perfect) filters, and. . . I hope and trust. . . a growing sense of what does and doesn’t bring glory to God. I wondered, what does this stuff do to kids who have little or none of that, but inquisitive and moldable minds?

In preparation for a new seminar on Narcissism that I’m going to present later this month at the National Youthworkers Convention, I’ve been doing quite a bit of study and reflection. One thing that’s become abundantly clear is that over the course of the last thirty or so years, narcissism and the focus on self has gone from being perceived as a vice, to being seen and embraced as a virtue. Jean Twenge’s growing body of research proves this fact. I think the same thing is happening in terms of how boys and men and being conditioned to view women, treat women, and understand/experience the wonderful God-given gift of their sexuality. Yesterday, my 53-year-old self saw that video trifecta as a celebration of vice. I’m guessing that a overwhelming majority of young viewers didn’t think twice about those videos and their powerful depictions of how to live life. Perhaps they saw them as depicting virtue. If so, I am – in their eyes – hopeless out-dated and old-fashioned.

That’s got me thinking about Proverbs 3:5&6. I wonder what would happen if I asked kids to think about their lives and then fill in the blanks on these sentences? . . . “Trust in ______________ with all your heart and lean not on ___________________. In all your ways acknowledge _______________ and _______________ will make your paths straight.”

One thought on “Vice or Virtue? . . . .

  1. I like that fill-in-the-blank exercise with youth. Great idea which I will have to borrow!

    The Proverbs passage is the ONLY Bible verse (besides John 3:16) that I memorized growing up and it continues to be one of my favorites.

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