Have you ever noticed just how powerful music can be? How much it influences your mood and feelings, the associations and images it brings, and the memories connected with it? How the lyrics stick in your head after many years, or how a song you only just heard might pop spontaneously into your head when you didn’t even think you knew it?
Music is everywhere in today’s culture…but not all of it is good. The music we choose to listen to can play a large role in either cultivating a love of virtue, or desensitizing us to sin.
God has created us for Himself, to know, love and serve Him on this earth – and in Heaven – where we will be happy with Him forever. All other things He has created to lead us to Him, and to help us to serve Him – music included. So if something is not leading us closer to God, it is leading us further away from Him, and with their catchy tunes, it can be easy to find yourself growing attached to songs that do not lead you closer to God.
With this in mind, here are a few tips for picking music that will lead you on to your eternal goal!
There seems to be very few real love songs – songs that portray a selfless love, and a love that will not be shattered no matter how hard it gets. Instead of real love songs, we get icky, suggestive songs, songs that describe immoral behaviour, songs with a pathetic selfish attitude about them, or songs that suggest that love is nothing more than a feeling.
The best love songs, I’ve found, are those that can be turned into a reflection of Christ’s love for us, and the love we are striving to have for Christ; a song that can be used, in a way, as a metaphor of our relationship with God.
Now, if this sounds idealistic – that a song about human love should be a reflection of God’s love – just remember that Christ has commanded us to love one another “as I have loved you” (John 13:34), and has called us to “be…perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Since we are all created in the “image and likeness” of God, our relationships are meant to be reflections of the Love of the Trinity.
So when it comes to love songs, it is good to ask whether or not the song can be used as an appropriate analogy of Christ’s love for me, or the love I should have for Christ. If the answer is no, then it is probably not worth it.
Upbeat songs often have a ‘feel good’ attitude about them, and it is important to make sure that they do not encourage a selfish ‘it’s all about me’ or ‘I can do whatever I like’ outlook. It is interesting to note that a lot of popular upbeat music tends toward the praise of oneself – but as Christians we know that all glory should go to God alone, so be careful that the music you listen to doesn’t encourage a self-centered or prideful attitude!
And as for dance music, the main thing to look out for is simply what sort of dancing it makes you feel like doing, and if it’s not the best sort, then it is probably no good. If it’s just energizing and fun, then you should be set!
SONGS IN GENERAL
For all songs in general, it is important to make sure that there is nothing contradictory to the Church’s teachings in the lyrics, and that sinful behavior is not held up as good. It is also very important to make sure that God’s name is not used irreverently, and to steer away from songs with swearwords. Be on the watch for false worldly maxims and philosophies, materialist or relativist attitudes, etc. Here again, I recommend Christian music. I’ve noticed that a lot of music on a normal radio station that does not fall into the ‘upbeat’ category often feels kinda depressing – but you’ll notice a wonderful change in atmosphere if you switch to a Christian radio station, where the music is imbued with hope and trust in God.
That being said, there is plenty of music that is not specifically “Christian,” and yet is still good and appropriate to listen to – discerning what music you want to set the background for your day-to-day life ultimately just takes prudence and conscientiousness.
Also, one last point: you can often tell whether something is good or bad by what it leads to – like how you can tell what a tree is by the fruit it brings forth. If any sort of music is making you feel depressed or encouraging anti-Christian sentiments, it is not worth it. Again, in this area Christian music does a wonderful job of lifting one’s thoughts a little higher, and encouraging charity and loving Christian behavior.
So there we have it! I encourage you to rid yourself of all music that is not good, and true, and beautiful. The tune may be catchy, but the words may lead you astray, so stay on guard, and choose only music that will lead you to God, keeping in mind St. Paul’s exhortation:
“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 and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8)