Giving attention is giving authority

up:: Attention MOC

Giving attention is giving authority

Garbage in, garbage out.

There is an economic theory that if you average the income of your five closest friends, the resulting number will be pretty close to your income. (Related: Finances MOC)

We are shaped by what we pay attention to

You are what you eat.

Attention shapes the self, and is in turn shaped by it. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Everyone and everything you pay attention to forms you in a unique way. Who do you want to give authority over you in that way? Like in nutrition, whatever you consume changes you. Be aware that everything you take in, makes you.

This is neurologically true:

All conscious thoughts and images have a neurological impact on the brain[.] How God Changes Your Brain – Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist

And negative input even more than positive. Exposure to anger and violence, be it in movies, the news or Video games, makes you more aggressive. 1

Observation: Not all inputs shape equally

However, some inputs shape differently than others. Some seem to shape quicker: A more visual medium like watching a show shapes me quicker than digesting a book slowly.

Not all inputs also exercise the same degree of authority. An podcast like Revisionist History which is mostly entertaining shapes me more shallowly than a podcast of the Holy Post which deals with Spirituality.

People get platform who are strong in self-promotion, not necessarily wisdom

In Jesus’ time, one had to know a disciple to become one – truth was embodied, not published; the good news was visible in changed people, not promised by impersonal media. David W. Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship

Audience does not equal maturity. Although a person might be an engaging speaker on content creator that does not mean they have a character worthy of the authority I give them. The crux is that you might not be able to tell often. A lot of the people I give my attention to are digital and therefore distance. I can only judge their character in a limited way.

Give people more authority in your life who are in closer proximity to you

On the Holy Post (Ep. 450) Skye Jethani suggest the closer people are to you the more authority you can give them. This makes sense: sounding wise is easy, walking the talk day to day is where true character is revealed. Spending time with someone beats the highlight reel of curated social media.

On that point: Some further thinking to do

How does this apply to books? I love 04 Reading. Especially because it broadens my horizon (Reading Narrative Fiction holds a variety of benefits). This means I give people authority without most likely ever meeting them. Is this problematic? I guess, part of it is balance and awareness. Moreover, how does this apply to learning from dead authors, like C.S. Lewis, who is formative to a lot of Christians.

Where does that leave us?

  • As a consumer, it is my responsibility to be aware that whatever I consume shapes me. It is my responsibility to hold that against Scripture.
  • As a content creator, it is my responsibility to be aware that whenever I demand attention, I also demand authority. It is my responsibility to hold whatever I feel I need to say against Scripture.

Focus on what is good.

So far, I focused mostly on the negative implications. It is powerful to understand that our attention can also be worship. In Solitude we give God authority to shape us.

Transclude of Phil-4#8


  1. Even watching violence on the news, or taking in a violent movie, will make you feel more angry, aggressive, negative, and powerless. (How God Changes Your Brain – Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist)