Ever since I was a small child I can remember watching valiant attempts at effective, anti-drug campaigns on t.v. Who can forget the famous father and son drug confrontation??–“I learned it from watching you!” (In case you aren’t familiar with this 80’s classic, you can check it out here)
Twenty years later those commercials still pepper the television. And while some of them remain unconvincing, some of them are also pretty creative. In particular, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign launched an ad this past May that I really liked:
This commercial is noteworthy due to its insight about motivations. Many of the “voices” that the young man hears are actually quite good ones. He would be foolish not to listen to them. They are providing healthy, compelling reasons to stay off drugs.
Yet this ad recognizes the pitfalls of listening to those “good voices.” Were he to follow their advice, even when it’s good, the teen would still be engaging in the same faulty decision-making that led him astray in the first places: It’s all a form of peer pressure. Whether it’s a pot-head friend at school or his concerned parents, these voices are all exerting a kind of pressure that sways his conscience in their direction, rather than helping him to form opinions of his own.
So instead of being tossed around by the various voices of others, this ad encourages teens to make their own decisions. In doing so, teens will have an immovable North Star amidst the storm of competing voices.
On one level, I think this perspective is brilliant. It exposes the human tendency to people-please, the vanity of it, and the ways in which this desire can pervert even the best of intentions. But what’s even more significant to me is that this type of well-intentioned people-pleasing is very present in the Church. Frequently Christians are motivated not by God’s opinion, but the opinions of other Christians. This kind of people-pleasing is sometimes hard to identify because it often results in a seemingly healthy Christian life. The opinions that are most revered are frequently very sound and good. Yet we go astray whenever our primary spiritual compass is determined by them. Rather than weigh our lives against the teachings of Christ and God’s Word, we listen more intently to those Christians whom we most respect.
And that leads us to the ultimate flaw with the anti-drug ad. It fails to actually identify the only voice that matters–God’s. Contrary to what the commercial implies, the teenager’s own voice is really no different from the other voices he hears. As fallible humans, our emotions and circumstances cloud our judgment and give us conflicting messages all the time. Discerning the difference between your voice and others can often be a nearly impossible task. At times, the two are indistinguishable.
And the same is true for Christians. When we are driven by the opinions of others, even if their advice is godly, we are doing little more than the insecure teenager who is enslaved to the opinion of her peers. While the outcome may look different on the outside–one lifestyle appears to be healthy while the other does not–the underlying motives are the same. Both the Christian and the teenager are building upon a foundation that will ultimately falter.
That is why our only true North Star is the voice of the Father. Only the perfect words of Scripture can anchor us amidst the voices of others and ourselves. That is why a better, more holistic closing to the ad would therefore read, “The only voice that matters is Yours.” In our culture, that is a message that every teenager, every woman, and every Christian needs to hear.
Thank you for this needed reminder of a simple yet profound concept. Working on a church staff in particular, it is critical to keep in mind that pleasing even the good, Godly voices around us is not to be a substitute for pleasing God Himself. I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to put this into practice today!