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 (Manna 53: Conquering Addictions)
Why I Got Rid of Cable TV
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Why I Got Rid of Cable TV

Vuthy Nol-Mantia—Pacifica, California, USA

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 1:13-16).

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)

HARMLESS POISON

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 source.

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 his back.

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 day.

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 repentance.

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 it.

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. http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/facts/mediafacts.asp

Number of TV commercials seen by the average person by age 65: 2 million

http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html#influence

In a sample of programming from the 2001-2002 TV season, sexual content appeared in 64% of all TV programs.

http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/facts/mediafacts.asp

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.

http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html#influence

1 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dept. of Labor, U.S. Government. American Time Use Survey (ATUS) 2003. Released September 2004

2 The Digital Dilemma. http://www.knowledgenetworks.com/know/2005/spring/article5.html

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