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Christian Living

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Family Matters 07/25/17

4 Ways to Protect Your Family from Negative News

Shocked kids watching TV news

My heart was troubled as I read a negative news story about a Minneapolis woman who called police because she thought a neighbor was being sexually assaulted. Somehow when the police arrived on the scene, the caller was shot to death. At this point in time, there are no explanations as to why an officer shot her when she approached the squad car. We know the officers' body cameras were not on and that the woman, Justine Damond, is dead. The question is, "Why?" There is so much we do not know and are left to react to another negative news story.

We view violence and unrest on our screens every day. One has to wonder what all these negative images and stories are doing to us.

When we see negative events, our brain goes into action. We are wired toward survival. Our danger detector (the Amygdala) calls our attention to negative stories and events. So we attend to bad news, in part, because of the threat of danger.

News outlets know we are more attuned to bad news, which is why one estimate is that 90 percent of the news is negative. All of these negative stories create multiple events for the brain to react to and filter threats. And negative events are especially contagious and shared. There's also some evidence that we respond quicker to negative words and that bad news heightens our need to change and prevent more problems.

But, all of this attention to bad news can lead to feeling down and depressed. Disturbing images stay with us longer. So how do we protect our minds and hearts, not grow bitter or cynical, and not lose our empathy for others?

  1. Begin by understanding that the more stressed, sick and tired you are, the more likely you are to be reactive to bad news. At those times, it wise to not pile on negative news stories. We may need to do what we teach children–limit our exposure. When you do see a negative story, remind yourself that media prefers to report bad news and disaster over slow and steady improvements in our society. You are not seeing the balance. Balance the news yourself by seeking out encouraging and uplifting stories of triumph and overcoming.
  2. Keep a spiritual perspective. According to 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we will see more bad news. This is a reality in a world that needs the Lord. "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power." This is not going away.
  3. So while we don't want to stick our heads in the sand, replace fear with prayer: God has not given us a spirit of fear, so remind yourself of His truth, His power, and His protection. Direct your worry or concern to prayer. God is telling us what is coming, but doesn't want us reacting in fear, rather in the hope we find in Him and the promise of a new day. This reality and hope must be balanced.
  4. Focus more attention on good reports. "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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9) This is one way you balance the negative bias; renew the mind with the promises of God. The power of God is more than positive psychology. It is a belief that God holds all things in His hand and will accomplish His purposes. He has given us a book and His presence to help us on the journey.
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