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Why the worst songs get stuck in your head

Series: Redeeming Your Time
Devotional: 2 of 7
Published: September 20, 2021

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your  ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)

Why is it that the worst songs are some of the hardest to get out of our heads? Is it because they’re uniquely catchy? That might be part of it. But there’s actually a scientific answer to this question. 

Dr. Roy Baumeister explains that if you “listen to a randomly chosen song and shut it off halfway through…the song is likely to run through your mind at odd intervals. If you get to the end of the song, the mind checks it off, so to speak. If you stop it in the middle, however, the mind treats the song as unfinished business….And that’s why this kind of ear worm is so often an awful tune rather than a pleasant one. We’re more likely to turn off the bad one in midsong, so it’s the one that returns to haunt us.”

Neurologists will tell you that it’s not just unfinished songs that our minds keep reminding us of. It is also unfinished tasks and unfulfilled commitments which our brains are bursting with. That’s a problem, because God didn’t design our brains to store that much information. And because we know we can’t “keep track of it all,” our mental to-do lists often cause Christ-followers a tremendous amount of anxiety. Why? Because we know that Jesus has commanded that our “‘yes’ be  ‘yes’” which brings us to the second principle of this series:

Principle #2
LET YOUR YES BE YES
To redeem our time in the model of our Redeemer, we must ensure that our “yes” is  “yes” from the smallest to the biggest commitments we make.

Our solutions for practicing this principle in our modern context are inadequate to say the least. From trying to keep track of to-dos in our head to storing tasks in starred emails, I think most of us would admit that our “yes” is not always “yes” like Jesus commanded, and thus, we’re more stressed than ever.

So what’s the solution? In my book, Redeeming Your Time, I share five practices that answer that question. In this video, I share a glimpse at one of those practices, showing you how to get all of your commitments out of your head and into a trusted, external system. Watch here.

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