Man in the Mirror
A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
The Song: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson.
Main Point of Discussion: If we want to change the world for Christ, we need to start with ourselves by looking into the mirror of God’s Word and putting it into practice—especially as it relates to the hungry, the hurting, and the homeless.
Vital Info Before You Get Started: (The following should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.)
- Don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.
- There are few (if any) places in the civilized world that haven’t at least heard of Michael Jackson. From his amazing talent to his tortured soul, Michael’s title of ‘King of Pop’ is overwhelmingly agreed upon.
- Since his unexpected death, Jackson’s popularity and place in the culture spotlight is perhaps more prominent than when he was alive. This is a great chance to use the media juggernaut to discuss the positive and even biblical messages from one of MJ’s most popular songs.
- It is possible to teach students about God and his love by using Jackson’s music without endorsing his music to your teenagers. (The practice of using secular material for sacred purposes goes all the way back to the Apostle Paul. See Acts 17.)
- You can access the song/live performance of “Man in the Mirror” at this “you tube” link.
Gotta make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
As I turned up the collar on
A favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind
Pretending not to see their needs
A summer's disregard
A broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other
On the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know
I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
I've been a victim of
A selfish kinda love
It's time that I realize
There are some with no home
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really pretending that they're not alone
A willow deeply scarred
Somebody's broken heart
And a washed out dream
(Washed out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me
You gotta get it right, while you got the time
'Cause when you close your heart
(You can't close your, your mind)
Then you close your mind
(improvised vocals to end of song)
© AEROSTATION CORPORATION; MCA MUSIC PUBLISHING; YELLOWBRICK ROAD MUSIC
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
Q: What’s the message of this song?
A: If everybody looked in the mirror and made a positive change, the world would be a better place—but it’s up to each person to take that first step, not wait for everyone else.
Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this song?
A: We should rejoice every time a popular artist creates along these lines. Then we should examine our hearts and souls to see if we’re doing what the song is asking—because if we aren’t, then maybe we should rethink the focus of our faith, because the song’s message is the minimum that a Christ-follower should be “about.”
Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this song to actually living out those opinions?
A: There are quite a few things that a Christian is supposed to be about—all of them have value. Of course we should be about pleasing and glorifying God; of course we should evangelize; of course we should exhort our fellow believers toward love and good deeds. The list goes on. But if we find that we’re living in our self-made Christian “ghettos” and aren’t reaching out to those in need—not just in other countries, but next door, too—then we’re missing the point. We need to ask God’s forgiveness, then find out what it is God wants from us when it comes to helping others. Then we need to do what God tells us to do.
Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.
For Deeper Discussion: (If your kids seem into diving in deeper, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)
CLICK HERE if you want to look at a quick training article on small groups and drawing questions out of young people—you may find much of the information applicable as you go through this subject with your family members.
This video paints a great picture of a world we often ignore or just hope will get better, when in reality the primary way positive change will happen starts with the you—the one looking in the mirror.
More Discussion Questions:
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In what ways do you wish the world was a “better place”?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What do you think about when you look in the mirror? What do you suppose others think about when they look in their mirrors?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What would we see if we looked in mirrors that showed us the condition of our hearts?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Do you agree with Michael that…
‘No message could have been any clearer…
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change’
Why or why not?
Read the following passage from the Bible:
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
- ASK A FEW: Are there similarities between the song “Man in the Mirror” and what James is telling us in Scripture?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What kinds of things does the mirror of the Bible reveal?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What does it mean to “forget what we look like” on the inside?
- ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: What is the promise if we put God’s word into practice? (Parent—answer you’re looking for: God will bless us)
- ASK A FEW: If you looked at yourself using the mirror of God’s Word right now, would you see a lack of compassion for the hungry, the hurting and the homeless staring back at you? Why or why not?
One way we can put what we talk about into practice right now is using the mirror analogy. I know this may seem different or even a bit uncomfortable, but I want you to take this seriously and let the Holy Spirit really work on your heart.
Pass out small mirrors to each family member and ask them to keep eye contact only with themselves the entire time you read the following passage:
Ask your family members what they were feeling, and what they “saw” as they looked in their mirrors (you could even ask if they saw a sheep or a goat and why), then discuss specific ways they could put this passage into practice both individually and as a family. For example, you could adopt a World Vision or Compassion child, make sandwiches for the homeless, etc.
31-33"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'
37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
41-43"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'
44"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'
45"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'
46"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."
Close in Prayer:
Ask God to give your family a vision and compassion for looking in the mirror and making the world a better place by putting God’s Word into practice.
Written by Lane Palmer
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