Consuming media nowadays is stressful. The right, the left, and even folks in the middle seem to be convulsed with anger. The news is enraging — or possibly fake — the media stinks, everyone hates each other, bombs are falling, giraffes are endangered, life is terrible, beer and red meats cause cancer…
At the center of the storm, of course, there’s The Trump. He of imprudent, unblushing bluster. He of “unpresidented” inanity and foreign policy flapdoodle. He who contorts our venerable media institutions into manic little pretzels on a nightly basis trying to explain what in tarnation is happening.
The issue is, how do we stay informed without becoming a bunch of sclerotic, cynical, sullen, somber sadsacks? How do you strike a balance between educating yourself and not letting the news affect your mental well-being.
Spoiler alert: I don’t know. But, my strategy for the new year is to be more intentional, proactive, and selective about the media I choose to consume, and to think often about Horatio G. Spafford’s “It Is Well with My Soul.”
“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
In November 1873, Spafford helped his wife, Anna, and four daughters board the SS Ville du Havre steamship, bound for Europe. The original plan was for the whole family to travel together, but he was delayed by a last-minute business matter and stayed behind. Tragically, the Ville du Havre struck another ship in the middle of his family’s journey and sank. Two hundred and twenty-six people who were on board perished, including all four Spafford daughters. Anna was one of the ship’s few survivors.
Horatio had to take a long boat ride to reunite with his wife in Europe — who broke the news to him through a heartbreaking telegram — which afforded plenty of time to think. At a time when most of us would’ve given up, or maybe jumped overboard, Spafford wrote the lyrics to what is now a well-loved hymn called “It Is Well with My Soul.”
“And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul,” he writes in the last stanza.
My takeaway here is that, if this guy could turn such a nightmare into something beautiful, or at least palatable, perhaps I can manage our current media milieu.
In other words, the Trumps of the world shall resound — or provoke, or demean, or flatter, or boast, or attack, or deceive — either way, it is well with my soul.
My exhortation for you today is, don’t let the media stress you out too much in 2017. Don’t let it diminish or deplete you. Be proactive about seeking substantive content that challenges, motivates, informs, inspires, and invigorates. Don’t rely too much on Facebook to tell you what’s important, let alone what’s true.
I understand awful things are happening — here and abroad. All we can control is how we respond. And, of course, what we consume.
Our media consumption all too often resembles what we eat, and how. We feast on fluff. We forgo nutritious fare and gum up our gullets with garbage. Media outlets are happy to oblige by serving up hearty helpings of arguing shows, sensationalized nonsense, and other empty calories that get the clicks.
Choose your media diet wisely. The Trumps of the world shall resound — quite loudly; try to find ways to make it well with your soul in 2017.