Back in the day subliminal messages were flashed while movies were being shown in theaters. Movie viewers might suddenly have a desire for a Coke or some popcorn. According to the internet, visual images were quickly flashed before an individual could process them, or flashed and then masked to interrupt mental processing. The concept became controversial in 1957 when people in marketing claimed it had potential to persuade the viewer.
More than just visual, subliminal messages are also used in text and audio formats. The message was proven to have a small, temporary effect on emotions or behavior. The practice has continued over the years even though the American networks and the National Association of Broadcasters have opposed it. Even the United Nations in 1974 concluded that “the cultural implications of subliminal indoctrination is a major threat to human rights throughout the world.” A natural conclusion is that secret, hidden messages, no matter what the format, have the power to influence human behavior and choice and violates human rights.
As a Christian who seeks to walk closely with God, I have found that the enemy, satan and his hosts, seeks to plant subliminal messages in my mind in a very similar way to advertisers. Sometimes these thoughts come so fast that I do not realize what has happened. I may notice that I have started to feel anxious or fearful or angry. One morning in particular, I woke up and was walking to the kitchen and suddenly felt very fearful and lost. It felt like I had seen a flash of something. I stopped and asked the Lord what had happened. I remained still and saw a scene of myself standing in a foreign airport with my luggage, not knowing where to go, and feeling very lost and afraid.
When I saw that picture, I realized that the enemy had “sown in” that image to tempt me to feel afraid and respond with fearful behavior. I thought about it and then decided to speak out the truth in response to it. I declared that I was not afraid – didn’t have a reason to be. I declared that I had traveled in foreign airports before and that I knew what to do, I knew how to ask someone for direction or help if I needed it. The feeling left immediately.
That experience has stayed with me. Was it the first time? Definitely not, but this experience brought some clarity and revelation. This is what we battle on a daily basis – and it is indeed a battle! The Bible says that our common enemy, satan, is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). The enemy’s lies are like subliminal messages that flash through your mind so quickly you can’t really see or recognize them. You may “feel” the results or even see the results in your behavior.
The Bible says the believer needs to “take every thought captive and make it obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This means that we need to think about what we’re thinking about! If Jesus wouldn’t agree with a thought we have, then we need to turn that thought around. That same verse talks about stopping our imagination from running away with us.
Sometimes we are genuinely afraid or angry. What then? What if that is just how we feel? We can tell God about how we feel. In fact, we’re made to share how we feel with Him. We don’t need to be concerned about whether He will be disappointed or not – He already knows how we feel. It’s for our benefit to tell Him. There’s something wonderful in being completely honest with God, for as we tell Him how we feel, we release those feelings to Him. He is ready to exchange them for peace that comes from Him. So whether the thought or feeling is from the enemy or from within, we can take those thoughts to God. He is ready to help us.
And as we develop the habit of coming to God, we get to know Him better and are more able to “take captive” wrong thoughts because we will be able to tell the difference between what He would say and anything else. It is so very good to know we can have the truth – the final word for our complicated lives.
Father God, thank you for being there to help me know what is true. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who lives within me to help me discern and understand. Please help me learn to recognize when a thought comes that I need to “grab” and examine. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.