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Bent, Broken, Whole, Healing
You Are What You Eat
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Bent, Broken, Whole and Healing

A number of years ago I was in a doctor's waiting room. Someone had the TV turned on to a national talk show and the topic was something like "Young Girls who Fall for Prisoners." It was an ugly and disgusting program which I would never have allowed into my home, but because of the situation, I allowed it to come into my brain. One of the girls, who appeared to be about 14 was explaining what she found so attractive about a certain prison inmate. With a smile on her face, she described a horrific act of violence that the prisoner had told her he committed. The description was more graphic and more heinous than anything I had ever heard in my life. The talk show host expressed concerned that anyone would find such acts admirable or attractive, but the girl merely continued to smile.

As I went about the rest of the day, I could not get the mental picture of that awful act out of my mind. It was with me the entire week, whether I was working, driving, trying to sleep, or attending church. I tried to put it out of my mind by praying, reading the scriptures, singing hymns, etc., but it was taking over my life no matter how I tried to get it out. I even went to the temple and still it haunted me.

After about 2 weeks, I remembered the scripture in the New Testament in which Christ tells his apostles that some evil spirits only come out by fasting. I decided that was my last hope. I fasted and prayed earnestly that these thoughts would completely leave my mind so that I could feel the spirit again and get on with my life. Slowly, over the next few weeks I began to come back to normal and the thoughts became less and less. I don't think I will ever totally forget that mental picture, but it no longer consumes my life on a daily basis.

I did not see the horrific acts committed by that prisoner. I only heard about them through a young girl on TV. Reading books can have that same undesirable affect. As Thomas Cardinal Wolsey (1471-1530) said, "Be very, very careful what you put into that head, because you will never, ever get it out!" Or as I like to say, "Once it's in there - it's in there!"

For the past few years, I have used the following quote from Oliver DeMille's Thomas Jefferson Education: as a guideline in choosing classic literature. It applies equally well to movies, TV shows, live performances, music, etc.

"There are four types of stories (as discussed in the excellent book The Healing Power of Stories by Daniel Taylor): Bent, Broken, Whole and Healing.

  • Bent stories portray evil as good and good as evil. Such stories are meant to increase the evil of the reader, such as pornography and many horror books and movies. The best decision regarding Bent stories is to avoid them like the plague.

  • Broken stories portray evil as evil and good as good, but evil wins. Something is broken; not right; in need of fixing. Such books are not uplifting, but can be very inspiring. Broken stories can be very good for the reader if they motivate one to heal them, to fix them. The Communist Manifesto is a broken classic, so are Lord of the Flies, and 1984. In each of these, evil wins. But they have been very motivating to me because I have felt a real need to help reverse them in the real world.

  • Whole stories are where good is good and good wins. Most of the classics are in this catagory, and readers should spend most of their time in such works.

  • Healing stories can be either whole or broken stories where the reader is profoundly moved, changed, significantly improved by their reading experience.

I recommend a set of three rules in coming face-to-face with greatness through the classics.

  1. Never read or watch Bent stories.

  2. Develop a personal canon of Healing stories.

  3. Spend the majority of your studies in Whole works, but don't neglect Broken stories that you ought to be fixing."


You Are What You Eat

I think that entertainment is something like food. There are some that are just a matter of taste, but you can't deny that some are better for you than others. And just like, "you are what you eat," you are what you read, watch, listen to, play, do, etc.

In his book, Stand a Little Taller, President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote:

A great man was once asked which of all the books he had read had most affected his life. His response was that he could no more remember the books he had read than the meals he had eaten, but they had made him. All of us are products of the elements to which we are exposed. We can give direction to those elements and thereby improve the result. Make every effort to enrich your environment with the reading of good books. (Stand a Little Taller, p. 40)

Everything we put into our minds becomes a part of us in some way. Some books and other forms of media are designed to influence our opinions - often in a very crafty and subtle way.

One of my favorite examples is the movie Dr. Zhivago. Although the movie has many great qualities and many consider it a classic, I refuse to watch it because it is designed to make the audience "root for" the man to leave his wife and go with the other girl! This is not a good value, and if we see enough of this sort of thing it influences our thinking so that we can begin to rationalize bad behavior until it can even get to the point where bad seems good and good seems bad.

Of course, one of the dilemmas we face is that how do we know ahead of time if a movie, book, song, etc is appropriate or not? Sometimes we can't. Sometimes we can go on other's descriptions or by outward appearances, watching the trailer, reading the book jacket, etc. but that's not foolproof. However, my own policy is that if there is any question, I stay away from it. I know I can survive without seeing the latest movie, reading the latest book craze, or tuning in to the most popular TV show.

I like the quote from President Hinckley above because it not only warns that we should watch what we expose ourselves to, but also that we can change ourselves for the better by spending our precious time with people, books, movies, etc. that lift us up and have high moral standards. If we lift the bar, it will strengthen us when we work to soar over it.  ~Michele Everett

A Thomas Jefferson Education by Dr. Oliver DeMille can be purchased from George Wythe College.
Quote used with permission.




Free Resources

A Child's Reading List
Classics That Endure
100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know
The Ultimate Reading List—Classics that Endure
100 Great Books
A Book in Time
Classical Homeschooling Reading List
Children's Books that Illustrate Values
Literature to Supplement History
Online Books
Yesterday's Classics for Today's Children

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