Is it a sin to listen to music with bad lyrics?

Is listening to music that had curse words and other bad things considered a sin?


Thanks for the great question!

As far listening to such music being a sin, let's start by defining sin. While there are many ways to define sin, I want to share with you a couple definitions that can offer some guidance in answering your question. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin as -

"...an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience." (paragraph 1849)

So, one thing to consider is how listening to such things effects your conscience. Do you feel guilty listening? I suspect you do, since you even bothered to write and ask my opinion about this. So, the fact that you have some weird feelings about listening to such things is definitely something to consider.

The Catechism also calls sin -

"...an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law" (paragraph 1849)

And I know for sure that bad words would fall into this category of "utterances" that are contrary to God's law. I also think that probably a lot of what you are referring to is lyrics that are abusive or sexual in nature, which certainly would be "deeds" and "desires" contrary to God's plan.

And, the Catechism describes sin as something that also -

"... sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it" (paragraph 1850)

I think a lot of the negative ideas and sexualized content in much modern music would fall into this category.

In light of all this, I think it would be good to try to avoid listening to music with curse words and other bad things. I know that avoiding such things completely might be practically impossible in today's world, so this response is not intended to send you on a major guilt trip. We live in a world where there are so many negative influences that we cannot avoid them all - just think of all the unchristian things that constantly bombard us in advertising, in movies, on cable TV, network TV, and music. To live in this world means that we will definitely be exposed to things that are contrary to our faith.

One thing you can do is to have a "filter" which simply means that when you hear and see things inconsistent with your beliefs, you immediately remind yourself of that fact. For example, if song lyrics celebrate premarital sex, immediately tell yourself "they're missing out; I'm saving sex for marriage!" Or, if a song sends a message that getting high or drunk is cool, remind yourself immediately "I would rather be high on life; drinking and drugs can ruin your life!"

I think, also, it is important to be cautious about what we allow to fill our minds and our thoughts. The positive side of this can be found in one of my favorite Scriptures -

"...whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phillipians 4:8)

Filling our mind with good things is God's plan for us! That is why I am such a big fan of having my filter in place, reading the Bible, praying, and listening to Christian music - which, by the way, is a great alternative to the negative stuff out there.

I know that some people think that all Christian music is lame, but that is a total lie. I am a huge fan and there are some totally rockin' bands out there. Every year, I attend Crossroads Catholic Music Festival which features some amazing bands. My kids, who are pretty normal teens and like a variety of music, listen to a lot of Christian music, too. Some of their faves lately are Hawk Nelson, Reliant K, and Switchfoot. If you Google any of these bands, you can at least sample some of their music online. If you want the names of other cool bands, let me know.

Thanks for reading this long response! I hope it helps. To summarize my advice -

1) Try to avoid negative stuff
2) When you can't avoid the negative, have your filter in place
3) Check out positive alternatives

Peace,

Paul Masek