Tell Me What I Want to Hear

One of the shows my wife and I enjoy watching is NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.  In the latest episode we watched, Ted Koppel did an excellent piece on news coverage.  It highlighted how much the news (on television in particular) has changed over the decades.  The initial approach was to present information occurring from locally to internationally.  The news might be nuanced in what a network chose to report but once it chose its topic, it was covered in order to share information.  By contrast, today it is not only what a network chooses to (or not to) report but even what is reported is often presented in a way to fit into pre-held ideological positions.  In other words, today we don’t just want the news, we want them to tell us the news in the way we want to hear it.  “Don’t just tell me what happened at those congressional hearings  but tell me how it fits into what I already believe.”  Imagine, for example, if your only print media news choices were either The National Review or Mother Jones.  This is increasingly what our television news reporting is like.  Why is this done?  Because it is a huge money maker.  People watch the news more when it is presented in a way that re-affirms peoples’ views rather than to challenge them.  No matter our political perspective, we like to believe we are right.  And nothing draws in viewers better than for the people delivering the news to them do it in a way to reinforce their own views every time they tune in.  And I would be surprised if one day Bill O’Reiley and Rachael Maddow are hired by the same company.  It will be akin to General Foods selling competing cereals (but make money regardless of what we choose).

But I didn’t want to blog on the news (although that should be a topic of discussion in the church).  What I wanted to write about today is how we have to guard against this exact same tendency within the church.  For if we don’t watch out, we will want our pastors, our teachers, and they hymns and praise music we sing to all be there to reinforce what we already believe (rather than to challenge us).  We human beings like to remember things.  We are often by our nature nostalgic.  So, if we can find someone to repeat back to us what we have heard before – it feels good.  And if it is the truth, all the better.  But the challenge is God’s truth isn’t something that is stagnant that stays exactly the same.  God is speaking to us and sharing the truth with us all the time.  But if we want to hear it, we have to be open and pushing ourselves to hear God speaking in new ways and through new people (or even by people we have read and heard before but when they are addressing new topics).  But will we hear it?

The challenge for me as a pastor is to remember I am no different from anyone else.  What I want to hear may be different because of my differing experiences but I know I tend to want to re-read or listen to trusted sources rather than to read new material by the same or different sources.  But if I just re-read and refer to what I have already read and listened to  before – more than likely I’ll be sharing with people my thoughts rather than what I hear as God’s Word.

My prayer through it is all is, “God tell me what I need to hear, not just want to hear, before I speak or write.”

What do you think?

Until next time,



2 thoughts on “Tell Me What I Want to Hear

  1. I learned as a child not to put my finger into the flame – it hurt at the moment and longer. It damaged my finger. Healing took time and made daily activities more difficult.

    I learned emotional flames likewise cause real damage and recovery time and effort.

    I avoid the causes of pain: physical or psychic.

    In the world of letters, bigoted commentary, mindless repetition of untruths, words “I see as” harmful to others, I avoid. It is an easy decision. Such words cause emotional pain and occupy unnecessary space in my mind.

    I also avoid learned discussion and argumentation of issues in which I have no interest or on which I am already decided, or which distract from pursuit of my already established goals. Such reading I quietly classify, seldom vocally verbalize but hold true, are a waste of my time.

    Why subject myself to such thinking pursuits? It only detracts me from pursuit of life’s legitimate activities. It hinders the attainment of objectives and my wider goals. Yes, pronounce such as a waste of my time.

    I avoid such reads, with clean conscience and confidence that for me this is the right path.

    This said, I presently do physical therapy for my frozen shoulder. These exercises cause me pain that I’d like to avoid. And to be honest, I sometimes do just that. Yet, I know, should I want a wide range of motion in my shoulder, I need to endure the pain and exercise the shoulder as directed.

    So your concept of endurance in reading new ideas, different ways of thinking about life, understanding humanity has some resonance.

    I’ve found that most of my “out of the box” reading/ thinking derives from life circumstances and emotional necessity rather than intentional plans. I’m not sure even how to make an “out of the box” reading list even if I wanted.

    Tom, just “off the cuff” thoughts on your essay. Thanks for this post. I enjoyed reading it as I did your earlier ones.

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