By Stephanie Jones |
I don’t at all believe the statement, “You are what you eat.” I have never understood how the foods I choose make me the person I am (with perhaps an exception for caffeine’s temporary effect on my mood). I do, however, agree heartily with the phrase “you are what you read.” Or – for television aficionados – “you are what you watch.”
Do not think this to be an essay on peer pressure and the dangers of secular society. It is not.
This is just to say that what I read, what I watch, and the people that surround me profoundly influence how I think. They don’t immediately influence what I think, or, for that matter, what I do. Notice a key word in that sentence – immediately; I’ll get to what I mean by that later.
First, I must explain the difference between what I think and how I think it:
My husband would tell anyone who would listen how difficult it is to win an argument with me. He says, rightly, that it is because I rarely enter an argument unless I have a developed opinion on the subject that I am prepared to defend.
So, what I think is often already established – by my own careful considerations of the subject, my own experiences, and time to think.
How I think is ever-changing.
When I go to the movie theater, if I’m impressed by the movie, I find myself in a mood the movie set for me.
If it was an action flick, I suddenly have the desire to do something adventurous. If it was a comedy, I become a comedienne (not a good one, mind you). If it was a romance, I become pensive and flowery – which is not usually like me at all.
So what I watch or what I read gets into my mood. From what I’ve seen of the people around me, I suspect I’m not alone in this effect.
I am most influenced though, in the way I phrase my thoughts, and thus my speech and my writing.
Recently, as I finished reading a number of essays written by a dear college friend, I found myself thinking in his syntax.
“Syntax,” for example, is a word I would rarely use without careful searching for it. But on this day, it moves from my fingers to the computer screen with ease.
For another example: I earlier typed, “for television aficionados”. If I were not so influenced, I likely would have typed “TV fans”. Also, I suddenly have a penchant for using colons (the punctuation mark, not the body part) correctly. I usually shy from them, preferring the dash. But how I am thinking is currently influenced by the infusion of essays into my gray matter. (The previous sentence being yet another example of my point.)
My rare, but still wrong, use of foul language could be another example.
I rarely curse when I’m angry. For that matter, I rarely curse … out loud. But if I am allowing myself to be influenced by what I’ve been reading – in this particular case more likely watching – then I tend to think curse words. Particularly when I’m in a sarcastic mood. So I must be cautious.
And speaking of my sarcastic moods – they’re most likely brought on by something I’ve just finished reading or a conversation with a particularly sarcastic person.
All this to say, my mode of thought is made up of the influences of the people in my life, be they my friends and coworkers, actors and actresses on the screen, or authors of the written word.
In Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB, in case you’re wondering), “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”
To that I would add the ears as well.
So what we take into our minds will affect how we think. How we think does, eventually, change the people we are. The people we are does, eventually, change what we think. And the more time we give to a particular influence, the more that influence becomes a part of the people we are.
A definition: “Amalgam – (noun) 1. a mixture or blend.”
I am an amalgam of the influences I choose. But, I choose. That’s the key.
Stephanie Jones is a minister’s wife in South Arkansas and works as a reporter for her town’s newspaper. She and her husband, Tony, have an almost one-year-old daughter.