Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
― Alexander Pope
Vice is a word that is not used often anymore, so I will provide a quick set of definitions from dictionary.com for the benefit of those who may not know its full meaning:
1. An immoral or evil habit or practice. Synonyms: fault, failing, foible, weakness. Antonyms: virtue.
2. Immoral conduct; depraved or degrading behavior: a life of vice. Synonyms: depravity, sin, iniquity, wickedness, corruption. Antonyms: virtue, morality.
3. A particular form of depravity.
4. A fault, defect, or shortcoming: a minor vice in his literary style. Synonyms: flaw, blemish, imperfection, foible, weakness.
Of course, there are other similar meanings, varying in severity, but in the context of Alexander Pope’s quote is obvious that he is referring to faults so detrimental to the soul that upon initial contact they repel and disgust the person exposed to it. Several things come to mind when I think of that… Murder, Immorality (in all its forms), Drug Abuse, Lies, Theft, etc… There are many other things that could be added to the list as well, but what about the smaller vices? You know what I am referring to. I am talking about the ones that hark back to the above mentioned depravities, but do not seem like they are a “big deal”. I am talking about things that reference, depict, encourage, or even hint at more serious vices.
I have a feeling I might strike a nerve with some people on this one, partially because I have my own set of “favorite vices” that I am trying to get rid of. I am talking about watching, listening to, or participating in anything that remotely hints at immoral behavior. When was the last time we really thought about what effect that only watching vices for the sake of entertainment has on us? What about all the swearing, references, to sex, drugs, violence, etc. in music, movies, and other forms of media? When we sit there and blow up aliens (or other people) in a video game, how does this effect us?
It effects us more than we think. I remember the time I first returned from serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and being appalled at the kind of things my siblings were deliberately listening to, watching, and participating in. I had spent a full year-and-a-half as isolated from social media and other modes of entertainment for the duration of my service and every swear word, every reference to sex, every little unkind thing, every “grey area” made me shudder. More often than not, I would turn the radio and TV off. I would ask my sisters, “Where do you think you are going in that outfit?” because it was borderline immodest. I think I embarrassed them a bit because by worldly standards, they were still incredibly modest. In fact, looking back I realize that everything I had a hard time with would probably be given a PG rating on the scale of detrimental, worldly influences. I was just more sensitive to it because I had not been exposed to it for so long.
Let me repeat that last part: I HAD NOT BEEN EXPOSED TO IT.
I am less sensitive to mildly offensive and crude things now, but I have not been able to jump back into main-stream media, fashion, or anything else associated with things that do more than subtly hint at vice. I did not watch the super bowl (Everyone remembers the Janet Jackson incident, right?). I did not watch, or follow the Grammys (Which turned out to be a good idea… *cough* Beyoncé *cough*). I do not watch TV. If a movie has sex, or even innuendo I will not watch it. I cannot. My time away from it all, as well as the rough lifestyles I saw people live as a result of poor choices in regard to crude, crass, and down-right vulgar things, has ruined my taste for it. I am glad it did. Maybe that makes me seem straight-laced and boring, but if that is what it takes to keep myself from slowly sinking into a cesspool of depravity and self-destruction, so be it. I have a hard enough time letting go of my bad habits as it is.
I am about to take it one step further. Are you ready?
I intend to screen everything my kids get exposed to as well. I used to think my parents were mean, and did not understand me because my show was “not that bad”, or my outfit was “not that immodest”, or whatever else I happened to disagree with. Now, I am grateful that they cared enough to protect me from things that would do me harm in the long run. After all, the devil does cannot immediately lead us to do horrible things. He starts small, and that is why it is important to protect ourselves and the ones we love from even little things that do not seem like that big of a deal.
This is a subject I have come to feel passionately about because of personal experience, and because I have seen what it does to others. Too often we allow ourselves to participate in things that slowly desensitize us and drag us down darker paths in life.