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Music and the Mind

Do you ever think about why you listen to the music that you do?

I do. Earlier this week, I found myself repeating lyrics from Chris Tomlin’s song, “I Lift My Hands.” I love the lyrics that say, “You are faithful, God, forever.” Every time I think of those words, I am reminded of situations where I’ve experienced His faithfulness in my life.

Christian music energizes me in ways secular music doesn’t. It helps me keep a positive attitude throughout the day, and it keeps my focus on God. I can’t say the same when I listen to secular music. Things like relationships start to become idols, and I find myself wanting things I don’t have. I become more self-centered when I listen to music that is less focused on God.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

I decided in high school that I would start listening to more music produced by Christian labels instead of mainstream ones. I made exceptions for Christian bands in the secular market because I supported their success in taking biblical truths to a wider audience.

These are bands like Switchfoot (Atlantic Records), The Fray (Epic Records) and Lifehouse (Interscope Records) whose lyrics convey godly messages. They aren’t marketed by Christian labels like Tooth & Nail Records or Sparrow Records, but their band members are Christians who glorify God with clean music appropriate for people of any age.

The decision to listen mainly to music produced by Christian labels was a challenge for a while because I attended a public high school. Some people compared me to other Christians and tried to pressure me into listening to music that wasn’t exactly admirable. People would tell me things like, “Joe is a Christian, and he listens to this band, so why don’t you?”

I didn’t make that decision because I had a “holier than thou” attitude. I made it for a reason that had nothing to do with my reputation as a Christian but my spiritual growth instead.

Song lyrics get stuck in my head easily, and I didn’t want negative thoughts repeating in my mind throughout the day. I would much rather have my thoughts praise God than dwell on things that aren’t pure on accident.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I have nothing against music that is considered secular. I grew up listening to oldies, and I’ll always have a soft spot for musicals. I have my favorite songs by The Beatles, and I’m a fan of Taylor Swift. But most of the time when I listen to music, I listen to bands like House of Heroes, Leeland and Tenth Avenue North.

It’s gotten easier to tell people that I usually just listen to Christian music when I’m asked about the kind of music I like. The more comfortable I am when I say most of my music is Christian, the more people are respectful of it. I haven’t felt pressure in a long time to listen to music I don’t think glorifies God, but sometimes it’s hard not knowing some of the mainstream songs my friends talk about or play on the radio.

All that said, I still feel like the decision I made seven years ago was worth it.

Do you have specific reasons for listening to the music you do or ever think about how music affects you? If you mostly listen to Christian music, have you ever felt pressured to listen to more mainstream music?

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About the Author

Amy Kessler

Amy Kessler interned with the Boundless team in 2011 and is a journalism graduate from Biola University with a minor in biblical studies. She has experience in newspapers, magazines, blogging, social media and online content management. Amy lives in California where she works as a marketing assistant for a community college district and blogs about her spiritual life. She enjoys playing tennis, experimenting with HTML, and discussing marriage and relationships.

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