June 08, 2018
This article is not a prescription for people dealing with depression, anxiety, or similar conditions. Through this article, we hope to guide our readers towards healthy viewing habits based on biblical wisdom.
This article is also not a criticism of the highly acclaimed Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why.” The series has received both backlash and recognition from experts and ordinary viewers alike since its debut.
If you (or someone you know) are dealing with mental health concerns, we encourage you to talk to someone who can help you get through it. Remember, you don’t need to go through it alone.
“13 Reasons Why” follows the story of Hannah Baker, a young high school student who took her own life after slipping into depression, following a series of betrayal, sexual assault, and bullying from people around her. Hannah left behind 13 tapes, in which she chronicled the 13 reasons why she was forced to commit suicide. One of her friends received these tapes two weeks after her death.
The show was heavily criticized by mental health experts, academic institutions, and parents, as it allegedly exposed its viewers to graphic suicide content, which may trigger depressive episodes especially among young viewers. The TV series revolves around drug use, self-harm, bullying and sexual assault.
Just recently, the TV series went back for another season, offering another hefty dose of emotionally charged episodes as the characters deal with the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s exposé in season one. In its season premiere, the show’s cast gave a warning to their viewers and discouraged those who are suffering from depression from watching the show.
Amid all these red flags, watching the show deserves careful consideration and wise discretion especially among young viewers.
I’ll give you 13 reasons why.
In Philippians 4, Paul reminded believers to not be overcome by anxiety, and instead respond to problems with prayer and thanksgiving. He then went on to remind them to focus their thoughts on good virtues.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Ask yourself: does “13 Reasons Why” promote any of these virtues?
Jesus said that what defiles a person is not what he eats, but what comes out of his mouth. He further explained that the things that come out of the mouth are an overflow of his heart (Matthew 15:18). Prolonged exposure to messages and media content influences our thoughts, emotions, and behavior. When we constantly feed our mind with negative thoughts, these things will corrupt our heart and defile us.
Have you observed if “13 Reasons Why” has influenced your views, affected your emotions, and impacted your words and social media posts?
A renewed mind results in a renewed life. Setting our minds on things that will benefit our well-being results in positive transformation. Conversely, when our minds feed on destructive content, this will infect our behaviors, attitude, and beliefs. Paul says, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Again, renewal of the mind results in positive transformation.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). What does it mean to set the mind on the flesh? It means to focus your desire and attention on sinful desires, and to think in the way that the unbelieving world thinks. But when you focus your mind on God, and consume media contents that add value to your life, it will lead to “life and peace.”
What value does the show add to your life? Does it promote life and peace?
Isaiah, a biblical prophet, wrote, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). “13 Reasons Why” is brutal and confrontational, potentially triggering depressive episodes on viewers with weak emotional well-being.
On the contrary, God offers perfect peace to those whose minds are stayed on Him. If you want perfect peace in your heart and mind, watching “13 Reasons Why” won’t do the trick. Focus your mind on God instead.
In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul says that God gave us a spirit of a sound mind. To have a sound mind is to have a mind that is free from the bondage of bitterness, emotional wounds, and painful memories. Moreover, a sound mind is a mind that is governed by sound wisdom, not by strong emotional impulses. God’s desire is to give us this kind of mind. Does this TV show guide you towards having a mind characterized by peace, self-control, and mental strength?
Our thoughts have power to steer our lives towards the wrong direction. “13 Reasons Why” romanticizes suicide, glorifies the victim, and offers no better solution than taking one’s own life. This could encourage people to consider suicide or self-harm as a coping mechanism or a way of escape from problems in life. Instead of filling our minds with destructive things, we can instead turn our gaze on things that have eternal worth and set our minds on godly things (Colossians 3:2).
Strongholds are thoughts, habits, and emotions that control us; they are created when we allow our minds and hearts to be constantly shaped by negative influences. These things starve our spirit and take our minds away from God. This is why Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Instead of saturating our minds with doubts, fear, and insecurity, we must instead guard our minds against unrighteous thoughts and focus on things that build us up.
When our thoughts and emotions are defiled, our relationships suffer. Negative mindsets, beliefs, and perceptions affect our actions, and the first ones to get hurt are those who are closest to us. When our minds are saturated with doubts, insecurities, bitterness, anger, and fear, we release these thoughts and emotions on people with whom we interact. Exposure to negative messages—whether through movies, TV series, books, or songs—shape our perception about ourselves and others. Paul reminds us in Romans 16:19 to be excellent at what is good and innocent of evil.
Our thoughts affect the way we see things, which, in turn, influences our actions. Paul encourages believers to be transformed in our minds, and to think in ways that are aligned with the Word. “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).
Jesus said this in Matthew 22:37-38. To love the Lord with all our mind is to keep Him in our thoughts, to think only of things that are pleasing to Him, and to think of how we can honor Him. To love Him with all our heart is to guard our emotions and to make Him our ultimate passion. Does this TV series help you love God through the purity of your thoughts and emotions?
The Bible describes the heart as the “wellspring of life.” Everything we do flows from the passions, desires, and emotions that we have stored up in our hearts. However, the gateway to the heart is through the mind. What corrupts the mind will eventually corrupt the heart. So the Bible reminds us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard the heart. How do you guard your heart? By filtering the songs that you listen to, books you read, and movies or shows that you watch.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to the Word” (Psalm 119:9). God’s Word is our best filter and our strongest defense against things that seek to corrupt our hearts. Purity is more than just about sexual abstinence; it is also about the purity of our minds from impure thoughts, the purity of our hearts against destructive emotions, and the purity of our actions and intentions towards other people.
I pray that you will consider these things the next time you turn on the TV or connect your device to the internet. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)