I want to warn you – you may hate this joke. So a man said, “I just bought my first car. I’m now at risk for the Car-owner virus.” What’s that? You hated that joke? I tried to warn you! My subject in this piece is not about the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. Well, sort of not about it. The topic I want to address is risk. Specifically, the risk of infection with “the bad news blues.” Millions are at risk of being infected with Covid-19, and the conflict and controversy over how to prevent and slow its spread and how to live until it goes away rages on. Politicians at the national level got into the discussion from the get-go, and each major party now seems determined to slant the virus issue to their own advantage, especially in this presidential campaign season, and even more so since President Trump was infected with it! The result, as is often the case when politics and politicians at the national and state level get involved, is more heat than light about the pandemic and how to best counter it. Mix in a clearly divided media, each relentlessly pushing its own agenda, and the result is mud-slinging on a national level! Lyrics from Anne Murray’s 1983 song are as pertinent now as when the song was released 37 years ago – “We sure could use a little good news, today.”
Now my main point. Do you want to make yourself feel better? Do you want to be less angry, depressed, and discouraged? Want to feel better about our country and enjoy life more? If so, let me urge you to exercise caution about gorging on too much “news” these days. I’m not sure many if any will heed the warning. Be that as it may, I will say it again: CAUTION: THE “NEWS” MAY GIVE YOU THE BLUES!” Why so? The oldest and best book on good mental health (better known as the Holy Bible!) urges us to understand in Proverbs 23:7a: “For as he thinks in his heart so is he.” Even as he suffered unjustly in a Roman prison, the apostle Paul urged Christians long ago: “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). It has been said, “You are what you eat.” But God’s word clearly calls us to understand, “You are what you think” – and the quality and fitness of what we think is largely determined by what we allow into our minds (“heart” in the Bible ). In her book Rapt Attention and the Focused Life, Winifred Gallagher wrote, “What you focus on creates your experience. Choosing your targets wisely is the key to the good life.” This is precisely why we are at risk. In this modern digital age, the “news” is pervasive, and much of it perversive. Via smart phones in our hands that deliver a heavy dose of visual images, we witness in what is virtually real-time the worst human beings can do and say to each other, as well as accidents and “natural disasters.” Research reveals that the effect of all that bad, bloody, and bleak stuff – along with the constant conflict, anger, violence, and irresponsible and slanted rhetoric – delivered in spectacular and dramatic words and images, is generating high levels of anxiety and even depression in millions. Too much of it puts us at great risk of being infected with a bad case of bad, sad, mad “stinking thinking.” Our minds become a breeding ground for all kinds of fearful, anxious, angry thoughts. I know this is not a technical analysis – but when all that fills your mind, that ain’t good! I say again: be careful, because too much “news” will likely give you a bad case of the blues!