From the viewpoint of adults that have experienced many things in life in ways that we wish we had not, my husband and I have become careful about what we read and watch and do. We have allowed our minds to be filled with all kinds of awful things. Although it has been years since we have allowed all things without discernment into our minds, the thoughts, images, and memories do not leave so quickly, some not at all.
We have an underlying rule with all things, even the strange humor that we enjoy. We ask ourselves, “Is it edifying?”
Edify means to instruct and improve the mind in knowledge generally, and particularly in moral and religious knowledge, in faith and holiness.
Even with the religious aspect removed from this definition, our family rule would still function.
To put skin on this selection process, let me give you an example. Have you watched the 1962 movie with Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird? What a great movie. This movie handled some very sticky issues and violence in a way that allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks appropriately. Everything was not spelled out for me, but I got it. Because the movie was not so graphic and the mind had to be engaged, I actually recognized some very deep underlying meaning in the story while the movie was playing out. The imagery stuck, and yet I was not left with undesirable images in my head to deal with later.
An example of a book that I truly enjoyed that had very intense content would be Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. This book was about a girl growing up with a adulterous mother that gave up caring for her. This little girl was taken into a life of prostitution. Without revealing the story, I can say that this book was edifying. While it did dealve into her life as a prostitute, there was no pornographic imagery I had to deal with. Adding the sexual details of this girl’s life would have detracted from the story, not enhanced it. I was able to grasp the horrors of her life without having them graphically written out for me detail by detail. In the end, I was able to digest the horrors of being enslaved in a life of prostitution without having to eternally carry images in my mind.
We do go through this selection process with our children as well. We do not make choices as to what they can read or view without them. We want them to be trained and disciplined as to what would be good to let into the brain, so as adults, they will make wise choices for themselves. Take the recent library prize for example, my daughter said no before I did. She did not want her mind being taken places sexually that it has not been. Wise choice for a 13 year old, no matter how good the story.
Here is the big question: Does a great storyline make a book or movie worth the time even if there is some graphic imagery? And some other relevant questions: Am I missing out on what everyone else is sharing by not reading/viewing these stories? Will I be able to relate to others culturally without reading/viewing them?
Sometimes the selection process can be difficult. There are movies we would love to see, or books we would enjoy reading, if it were not for that one part they put in there. What our family has found is that there is so much good stuff out there, that the questionable stuff is really not worth the time to weed through even if the story is incredibly redeeming. We have found plenty of incredibly redeeming stories without the extra details that take our minds elsewhere. We have stacks of great books we desire to read, and not enough time in the day.
I have found that our family is not missing out and can relate to the rest of the world just fine as well. Many people have the viewpoint that since our children are home all the time, and since they are not allowed to view and experience what “all the other kids” experience, they will somehow not be able to function in society. My children are sheltered. This is a fact. They are not allowed to roam about the world freely at this point. By being sheltered do they miss out on what is going on culturally today? Not our kids. We live in the inner city. They are exposed to drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, prostitution…daily. We have chosen to live here, and they are seeing first hand what most go to the movies to view. They are experiencing with us how to interact with society. They are learning how to set safe boundaries with people, yet how to approach those smelly people that most of society discards. We are investing our lives in these people, yet we get to skip the sex scenes, the violence, the drug usage. Instead we see the effects of it.
What do we censor from our home? The greatest censored item would be sexually imagery. My husband and I have regrets about our relationship. Most of these regrets have to do with allowing sexual imagery into our relationship, and making culturally acceptable sexual decisions before we were married. We can see how these images and decisions robbed our relationship of intimacy and value. We have found that the less we let the world into our bedroom, the more wonderful and intimate our bedroom becomes. I want my kids to know this truth, and I believe they can without having to experience these mistakes for themselves.
How do we know what to allow into our home? Often the description of the story will lend itself to the answer. We read the cover and reviews online as well. But sometimes a story does make it into our home that we didn’t know enough about to make an educated decision. When we get to a part in a book, or in a movie, and we realize that it isn’t appropriate, we stop the story. If the storyline is going in a direction that leads our minds to sordid things, we stop the story. In both cases, we then talk about why we stopped the story. The topic is open for discussion.