Why I Got Rid of Cable TV
THE KNOW-DO GAP
It is reported that the average
American watches more than four hours of television each day—equivalent to
twenty-eight hours per week—making it the third most consuming activity behind
sleep and work.1
Before coming to Christ eight years
ago, I also watched TV for five or six hours a day. I worked as a counselor at
the time, and after a stressful day of listening to my clients’ depressing
problems, my routine was to come home and unwind in front of the television.
It was an outlet for me to
temporarily escape my thoughts, be entertained, and forget about the day’s
troubles. This seemed like a harmless and autonomous activity, but as I drew closer
to God, I became keenly aware that many programs on TV portrayed offensive
content that was damaging to my spirituality.
God’s standard for us is so much
higher than I imagined. He wants us to be holy as He is holy, calling us to be
sober and not conform to the lusts we used to give in to in the past (1 Pet
But there is a huge gap between
knowing and doing.
My problem was, even after God had
revealed this truth to me, I still found watching TV pleasurable. I heard the
inner voice telling me to stop, but I could not obey it.
For what I will to do, that I do not practice;
but what I hate, that I do…For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing
good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I
do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will
not to do, that I practice. (Rom 7:15-19)
One time, I was watching Friends while running on the treadmill.
Later that day when I knelt down to pray, I felt like my heart was defiled and
I was far away from God. God made me understand that even though watching a
half-hour sitcom like Friends seemed
harmless, it was in fact poisoning my spiritual health.
Although there were no explicit
sex scenes, the implicit jokes about sex and relationships were just as abominable
to God, and could easily fall under the type of “coarse jesting” that
Christians should avoid (Eph 5:4).
I came to the realization that if
thirty minutes of watching Friends
could instantly defile me, then there were many worse things on cable TV that could
pull me further away from God. So I determined in my heart to pray to God and
ask for strength to get rid of my cable subscription.
Although I had already been
baptized for six months, this was still a very hard thing to do. I remember
feeling somewhat lost when I first unplugged my cable. My eyes and fingers had
become adept at clicking through the many cable channels searching for
something “interesting” to watch.
Now, I would come home from work,
flip on the TV, and get frustrated trying to watch the four or five local
channels available. Because I lived across from a movie rental store, I started
renting movies. I found myself renting movies more and more frequently, and at
one point, every day.
This went on for about one year
before I could admit to myself that I was simply getting my fix from another
BE FILLED WITH GOD
There’s a story about a scorpion
who wanted to cross the river to the other side. He saw a fox and asked the fox
if he could carry him over. The fox said, “No way, if I let you on my back, you
will sting me, and I will drown in the water.”
The scorpion replied, “Don’t be
silly. If I sting you, then you will drown, but so will I.” The fox thought to
himself, that’s true, he would drown too, so he agreed to take the scorpion on
But as they were halfway across
the river, the scorpion stung him, and they both started to drown. The fox
shouted at the scorpion in bewilderment, “Why did you sting me? Now we are both
going to drown!” The scorpion shook his head and replied, “I know, but I
couldn’t help it. I am a scorpion, and it is in my nature to sting.”
Similarly, conquering a sinful
addiction is not easy because it is in our fallen nature to sin.
By definition, an addiction is an
irrepressible compulsion to repeat a behavior—no matter the consequences. And Satan
had me on a hook. Only by God’s grace was I able to overcome.
For a full month, I did not rent
anything. Instead, I just focused on praying and reading God’s words. I
remember at one point during that period, I felt like renting a movie. I went
to the movie store, walked around for half an hour, couldn’t find anything
interesting to watch, and finally walked out empty-handed.
I realized from this incident that
when we are filled with the Spirit and word of God, we don’t need anything
external to stimulate us but are completely full and satisfied in God Himself.
But the converse is also true. If
we are more carnally minded, we will instinctively seek for carnal things to
fill our hearts. I remembered that several months prior, when I was not praying
and reading the Bible as much, I had no problem leaving the video store with an
armful of blockbusters to watch.
We have to make the choice to stop
bad habits and start filling ourselves with God—it isn’t going to happen on its
own. It takes conscious effort to begin praying and reading the Bible every
BE IN THE 1.5% CATEGORY
All things are lawful for me, but all things are
not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the
power of any. (1 Cor 6:12)
The first step to overcoming an
addiction is to acknowledge its harm. The second step is reconciliation to God through
Oftentimes, we persist in a bad
behavior because we do not think it’s a big deal relative to worse sins others
are committing. But the point here is that it’s not about us—what we like or
what we feel. It’s about God—what He requires of us and how it pleases Him.
Because He is the Creator and we
are the created, He has the authority to set the rules and we have the responsibility
to abide by them (Rom 9:19-20).
Through continued prayer and
studying God’s word, I was finally able to get rid of my TV and VCR altogether.
That’s right—for the last seven years, I’ve transitioned over to the 1.5%
category of American households that do not own a TV.2
The surest way to resist
temptation is to simply walk away from it, and it just worked out better for me
to not have a TV in the house. That’s not to say that the other 98.5% of the
population are misguided.
Actually, there is nothing sinful
about TV itself. Like any other form of media, there are good and bad content.
The underlying problem is that, more often than not, we do not have the
self-control to limit how much time we spend in front of the tube, and we lack
the discernment to only watch programs that are appropriate for Christians.
The fruit of the Spirit is
self-control (Gal 6:22-23). We do not have self-control when we are not filled
with the Holy Spirit. We are not filled with the Holy Spirit because we do not
pray and read the Bible enough.
The simple but profound solution
to every human problem, including TV addiction, is drawing ourselves closer to
God in prayer and worship, and abiding in His words.
Sidebar of Tips to Control TV Viewing
Even if you are not ready to get
rid of the television, you can still control how much time you spend watching
Plan out your TV time. Keep a log
of the TV shows you watch within one week. Eliminate all programs that you
watch only because the TV is still on, or because you don’t know what else to
do. Make a schedule of your free time, and put in other activities during the
times you otherwise would spend watching TV—take a walk, read a book, etc.
Unplug the TV and hide the remote.
Because it will take some effort and time to plug in the TV and find the
remote, you will probably think of something else to do instead.
Cancel the satellite or cable
subscription. Reducing the number of channels available also reduces the
temptation to watch. You also save on the monthly cable or satellite bills.
Sidebar of Statistics on TV
By age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000
simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.
American Psychiatric Association.
Number of TV commercials seen by
the average person by age 65: 2 million
In a sample of programming from
the 2001-2002 TV season, sexual content appeared in 64% of all TV programs.
Heavy TV viewers exhibit five
dependency symptoms—two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis
of substance abuse. These include: 1) using TV as a sedative; 2) indiscriminate
viewing; 3) feeling loss of control while viewing; 4) feeling angry with
oneself for watching too much; 5) inability to stop watching; and 6) feeling
miserable when kept from watching.
1 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Dept. of Labor, U.S. Government. .
Released September 2004
2 The Digital Dilemma. http://www.knowledgenetworks.com/know/2005/spring/article5.html