Fifty Shades of Grey is the first in a trilogy that is all the rage right now. The irony of the color grey strikes me. How we live in a world of grey more often than a clear black or white. How each person has their own standard for what is permissible in their life that in turn creates their own shade of grey unique to their DNA. What is your shade of grey? Have you happened into it or have you deliberately chosen it?
Now that I have your attention, let me say it is not my intention to address the moral issues from my point of view, but rather to speak to the broader reality of media’s influence in an individual’s life. By trial and error (alongside trying not to hurt others’ feelings), I have found that just because it is the latest big thing (movie, TV, or book) does not mean it is right for me. I hope you have found what fits in your value system.
(Aside: For the readers who know nothing about the book Fifty Shades, it is commonly called “mommy porn” and contains six times the sex scenes of the average romantic fiction novel. These scenes are graphic and unconventional in nature, so it is classified under the genre “erotica.”)
This article is not about whether or not you choose to read this book, because by grace you can read, watch, drink, eat, etc. what ever you desire. The scripture that comes to mind that supports this truth is 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 (Jackee paraphrased): Under the grace of salvation provided to those who place their faith in Jesus as the one true way to God, all things are permissible but not all things are profitable. All things are permissible: under grace all is covered by the blood of Jesus that allows a person to be seen with out sin in the eyes of God. Not all things are profitable: there are actions which will have natural, emotional and/or spiritual consequences, some which will shape a heart in hidden ways.
What does “profitable” look like in your life? I have found that when the “permissible” starts to drive my appetites, my time, my thoughts or reshape my relationships it has crossed a line that questions the “profitability” of the activity at hand.
Though there are a number of items that are permissible, I want to keep the focus on media. There is a reason book and video stores cannot apply for SBA (Small Business Administration) loans. The government will not loan its money to businesses whose central focus can influence the moral and political stances of individuals. This in itself is a huge indicator of the known influence media has on the population as a whole. Media is an influence in everyone’s life, as each person is regularly exposed to it and influenced by others who are exposed to it.
Fourteen years ago, I chose a book by an author I had read over the years, as she writes children, teen and adult books. The book left me in a funk; in the end there was no redemption or hope. I got to thinking of how her writing for teens influenced my friends and me. How we bought into the scripts of love, and how life events were supposed to unfold.
That day I looked back on this with the life-view of a thirty-something mom and knew it was not for our better. I saw clearly how the media influences my heart was drawn to as a teen were used to set a path in my life that would ultimately be less than “profitable.” This caused me to pause, as it occurred to me this is probably true for thousands of girls in multiple generations. This grieves me.
Prior to this revelation, as a mom I knew the influence TV, movies, magazines and books had made on my moral compass. I knew I would monitor those influences in my daughter’s lives. I did so not in a controlling way, but by being open to saying, “There is a lot out there to influence you; let me help you navigate these choices by conversing with you about what you choose to take into your mind and providing guidelines you could use to protect yourself.”
Yes, it is protection. At age 21, one daughter went to see a romantic comedy that was rated R, only to walk away disgusted with the understanding and knowledge she was exposed to in the movie. Of her own accord, she says she learned a life lesson she will never forget.
Both of my girls have lived a life of purity that humbles me and may very well be at a level my family tree has never seen. This is an area that has been right for them and to which their own hearts were called to. It was not from preaching purity or imposing regulations that planted this seed in their lives but their own choices, which they own, having created them for themselves from their hearts.
They were able to walk their choices out for a few reasons. The key reason (beyond it being a personal self-owned life value) is the media they were exposed to did not awaken love before its time. There was a series of books a few years ago embraced by many females. My daughters read them all and have even attended the midnight showings of the movies, as young adults who had their personal value system in a place that it would not be swayed. The concern I have is not for this series, but all media that is in the lives of younger readers: that it not awaken love before its time, that it does not set a standard or a script in the hearts of young girls that is less than the best for them. That they be alert to the shade of grey they are creating for themselves as they become conscious to the media taken in and the influence it carries with it.
Let’s come back to our unique shade of grey. Have you, like I did for several decades, just stumbled into it? Or have you been intentional in the media that has influenced you? Have you set a course that is “profitable” to the person you are? Do you need to tweak it to “profit” the person you desire to be? For most of us the tweaking is ongoing. My desire for each of you is to be purposeful in your personal choices while being alert to those whom you influence. Let your influence bring out the better in others; better than what you ever thought you could achieve, for that is a true expression of love.