Consider the Source

Amy Welborn is a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Service and a regular contributer to the Living Faith quarterly devotional.

Parents, teachers, religious figures, advertisers, magazine writers and even the people who dream up those motivational posters that paper the wall of your classroom: They all know, they all have the secret, they will all fill your ear with advice if you just let them.

How do you know who to listen to?

It’s really not so difficult to figure out. Just remember this simple phrase and slip it into an easy-to reach spot in your conscience:

Consider the source.

Think about who’s talking and why. Figure out how they’ll benefit if you do what they say. Make an honest accounting of how they’ll lose if you don’t.

Let’s start by looking at some easy examples first: bad habits we call smoking and drinking.

Print, broadcast and billboard advertising don’t come right out and order you to hand over your money for alcohol or cigarettes, but what they do is much more powerful:

They employ experts in human behavior and response to figure out what combination of images and sounds will get you to associate their products with happiness.

So from the time you could see, you’ve been surrounded by these images, and for some of you, they’ve worked: you associate holding a stick of tobacco between your figures with sophistication. You think of beer, and you think, in general terms, of good times, friends, and relaxation.

It’s the same with any product, even those less directly harmful than alcohol and tobacco: product manufacturers who make everything from shoes to movies, from cars to soft drinks, work very hard to work to get you into the habit of assuming that a part of your happiness and even more of your coolness depends on buying their stuff.

Consider the source.

Next case: sex. You’re surrounded by voices yelling, screaming and, of course, seductively whispering the message that sex is okay, no matter when or with whom. They tell you that sex isn’t much more than one more casual pastime in this universe of fun things to do, and there’s no harm that will come as long as you’re “safe.”

Consider the source.

Think for a moment what would happen if, by some amazing miracle, every teen and young person in this country decided to embrace chastity, not only in terms of their bodies, but also in relation to their inner lives as well. What would happen if all of us chose to surround ourselves with sounds, images and words that help us shape our best selves rather than appeal to our basest instincts?

Who’d lose?

The list is pretty long. Condom companies. Pharmaceutical corporations who manufacture birth control pills. Abortion Clinics. Planned Parenthood. Lots of record companies and movie studios. Television networks, especially MTV, UPN and the WB. Countless magazines.

Not to mention all the advertisers who work for them.

Now, just for a moment, go over the other messages from the other side: Be responsible, treasure sexuality as a sacred gift, treat your body with care and use your resources – talents, time and money – as if they’re gifts.

Who tells you all that stuff? Parents. Teachers. The Church.

Do they have anything to gain if you buy it? Do they make any money or get rich?


So why are they so anxious for you to take it seriously?

Maybe because they know it’s true.

Maybe because they want you to be the best person you can be.

Maybe because they want you to find lasting, true happiness and peace.

Maybe – because they love you.

Like I said, consider the source.

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