No one can deny that America has just gone through the most negative election cycle in recent memory, if not in its short history as a nation. It seemed early on that the motto was, “If we can change the way they think about a certain candidate we can change the way they behave.” In other words, if candidate A can paint candidate B as something of an undesirable character candidate A can change their behavior in the voting booth. Backus and Chapian (1980) wrote, “The constant repeating of misbeliefs is what sustains the perpetual angry resentment” (p.51). Do people really buy into such negativity or do they “fact check” and make informed decisions?
America is now a country in which there is some question about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physical, security, love, purpose, self-actualization). Maslow suggests that people will not be motivated to meet the higher needs until the lower ones are met. If that is the case, in a country like America where unemployment is up drastically and wages are down, could the people suffering in this economy be influenced by negative advertising? The answer is a resounding yes.
If people who are out of work and struggling hear candidate A paint candidate B as one who will not help them, and as a matter of fact he is one who will put them more in chains, this will influence their beliefs. Crabb (1977) writes, “Each of us has been programmed in his or her unconscious mind to believe that happiness, worth, joy—all the good things of life – depend upon something other than God” (91). And, in America that something else is the Government.
If group 1 is a group that is struggling in the current world, their thinking will probably be something less than positive. If that is complicated by candidate A saying that candidate B cares nothing for group 1, the negative thought pattern is reinforced. And, if candidate A continues the negative stimuli candidate B becomes ingrained as an undesirable candidate. Even if the negative attacks make people view candidate A in an unfavorable way he may lose some votes, but he has painted the negative picture of candidate B and that image sticks.
While it is true that we cannot change people—no matter how negative candidate A gets anyone listening always has the choice to believe or not believe, to check facts, or any number of things—we do influence their thinking. Paul said “Let your speech always be with grace” (Colossians 4:6). Ours is not to make ourselves look better than the other person at the risk of tearing the other person to shreds. While we use self talk to help ourselves we allow what comes out of the mouth to tear others down.
It has to at all times be remembered that Jesus said, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:11). While we use our self talk to build ourselves up (and that self talk has to be biblical) we have to remember that when our self talks it should not degrade others. We are what we think. And, what we say does influence others, whether what we say is true or not.
If you are in the area stop by and see us at the Belvidere-Ryland Church of Christ.
Until next time May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You: All Y’all!
Minister, Belvidere-Ryland Church of Christ
North Carolina, USA