Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) is a concept common to computer science and mathematics. Simply put, the quality of output is determined by the quality of the input. So, if incorrect or useless data is input to a program, the output is likely to be flawed, useless or even misleading. And flawed thinking often leads to wrong conclusions and actions. Human lives are a lot like computers in this regard. Perhaps this is why the Bible tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
So what garbage are we humans filling our minds with these days? Violent video games is one option. According to the American Psychological Association, research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, thinking and feelings. Violent video game use is also related to decreases in empathy, sensitivity to aggression, and desire to act in ways that help others.
The Umpqua Community College shooter (October 2015) was a habitual violent gamer and had even connected in an online chat room with people who encouraged and gave suggestions to his murderous plan, as well as applauded his actions after he killed 10 students. And this isn’t an isolated incident.
While the Bible tells us all life is created in God’s image and has intrinsic value, violent games show users repeatedly that it is disposable. In fact, games reward “kills” and desensitize players to splattering blood. Scenes that would be considered horrific in real life bring cheers and applause for the killers because this is a fantasy world, right? Unfortunately, the people who are most easily and wholeheartedly drawn into this fantasy world are those who struggle with healthy social interaction and feel powerless in the real world. Instead of building their self worth on the rock solid truth that God created them and has a good plan to prosper them, these people build their self worth on how many “kills” they get and how much “damage” they inflict. Why are we surprised when a horrific game scene plays itself out in a school shooting on the evening news? Garbage in; garbage out. Minds are certainly being transformed, but not in a positive direction.
Another garbage option is pornography — a $97 billion global industry, but “only” $10 to $12 billion in America according to one source. Sparing the disturbing details, viewing pornography influences (transforms) what a person considers normal or healthy in sexual relationships. Again, pornography demeans human dignity and cheapens lives. It sends the message that human beings of any age may be used and thrown aside, a far cry from being made in the image of a holy God to be cared for and nurtured.
In Genesis’ creation account, God spoke almost everything into existence, but carefully shaped man with His own hands and breathed His very own life breath into Him. God also handcrafted the woman who was especially created to be a lifelong wife for the man. (Incidentally, this holy marriage of man and wife is the only appropriate setting in God’s eyes for physical intimacy — and He created sex to be a healthy part of marriage — not the twisted form of entertainment or a right as our culture has tried to redefine it.) Later in Ephesians, we learn that husbands are to love their wives sacrificially as Christ loved the church, giving Himself for her. This is the extreme opposite of the abusive interaction porn depicts. I heard the culture’s backwards thinking summed up well in a conference against human trafficking earlier this year. God created people to be loved and things to be used; the problem with our world is things are being loved and people are being used. Porn transforms minds in a detrimental way. Garbage in; garbage out.
The challenge? Be intentional about putting good things in your mind. Purposely read and study truth from the Bible that transforms your mind in healthy ways. If there is anything you read, watch or play that has values which contradict God’s Word (and you need to know what the Bible says in order to test things), then throw it out. I’m reminded of a funny scene from a movie where a husband addicted to viewing porn on his computer was convicted and determined to stop. He is shown taking a baseball bat to the computer over a garbage can in the backyard while his questioning neighbor looks on from afar with raised eyebrows. I’m not sure that is too extreme, given the damage “garbage in” does to relationships, families, adults and children. And if you need a biblical “measuring stick,” something to compare what is in your life to what SHOULD be in your life, consider Philippians 4:8 — “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
It’s true. Whatever we allow in our minds will transform us. Garbage in; garbage out. Thankfully, the opposite is also true. Truth in; truth out. Beauty in; beauty out. Life in; life out. It is never too late to begin choosing what you will allow to transform and renew your mind. Choose well. Starting today.