This one hurts.
I’ll admit it – entertainment is probably my #1 numbing behavior and always has been. Whether it was Friday night sitcoms in the 80’s, Rom-Coms in the 90’s, or the binge-worthy internet surge of the 2000’s, I’m a sucker for escaping into the real or not-so-real lives of other people.
So this is a blog post parts of me really didn’t want to write. But as I engaged my entertainment-loving protector with compassion, I learned a few things. Let’s start with the good:
Absorbing yourself in a good movie, TV show, or sports event can give you a much needed lift. It can also lead to a collective experience. I saw this vividly played out one evening, when my family and I left our church’s homeless shelter around dinner.
All the men who had come in for a meal were huddled around the old TV watching a Frasier rerun and laughing their heads off.
Soon, they’d have to head back out into the cold and face all-too-stark realities. But for that moment, they were enjoying a bit of reprieve, a needed escape.
Entertainment can distract you when distraction is needed. If your body is sick or your heart is broken, watching a good show (or several) can help you pace yourself in your journey toward healing. And honestly, there are some really good, amazing, shows out there! Entertainment, at its best, teaches us and inspires us. It helps us become part of a something bigger than ourselves.
Too much of anything – even something “good” – leads us down the road of self-destructive, numbing oblivion.
We live in an age of excess. Boundaries on access to entertainment no longer exist. We don’t have to wait a whole week to see the next segment of our favorite show. We can watch a whole season in a weekend if we want, through the miracle of the internet. And the number of options are endless. Entertainment is available to us all day every day with unprecedented options.
We’re in a new frontier here. . .we have to develop boundaries within our own souls.
But why? What harm is there in it? How does my binge-watching hurt anyone?
Well, my love, as with many extreme numbing behaviors, the first person you harm is yourself. Let me try to explain.
You care for others, right? Well, the thing is, when your numbing takes over, guess what happens? Other parts of your soul don’t get the care they need.
Remember those parts of you that actually want to get up and move around?
Do you remember how good it felt when you walked in the woods the other day? Did you notice the smell of pine in the air? Did you feel the crunch of the snow on the ground?
Or the parts of you that crave quiet and an invitation to feel? (I promise they’re in you!) Do you remember when you sat at the breakfast table the other day in a rare moment of silence? Did you see the tears that surfaced – the odd mixture of sadness and joy as you re-lived your daughter’s great accomplishment?
Did you feel that wild, life-giving surge of aliveness as you connected to yourself in the presence of a loving, oh-so-deeply passionate God?
Oh yeah. That was nice. It felt so. . . real. OK, I’m seeing your point.
Excess is the opposite of balance, of harmony. All things in moderation, Paul says (1 Corinthians 6:12).
When we don’t set boundaries with our love for entertainment, we get out of balance. We stop tending to other parts of our soul that have different needs: the parts of us that need to experience holy ground, the deeply real, the authentic. The parts of us that need nature, and movement, and rest. The parts of us that need to face the challenges of growth by turning our attention inward. . . and up toward the heavens.
When we don’t set boundaries with our entertainment loving numbing protector, we trick ourselves into believing that
-we’re not really lonely, when what we really need is deep connection.
-we’re not really overwhelmed or confused, when what we really need is clarity.
-we’re not really afraid, when what we really need is courage.
As I underwent my own mini-fast from entertainment, I was surprised to discover a surge of creativity. A surge I was not at all expecting. And here’s the thing about that – exciting as it was, creativity for me can feel a bit like trying to harness a wild colt. It stirs up a lot of ideas and dreams that I don’t always know how to manage. Sometimes it feels safer just to shut those ideas down, than to do the harder, riskier work of learning to lead myself with a sure, steady hand.
And I’m still working on it. But I’m starting to understand what feels game-changing. . .
Numbing keeps us from the wild, purposeful, sometimes scary, deeply important life God created us to live out.
We’re all experiencing an incredible cultural shift together – where all of our numbing escape hatches are available to us pretty much 24/7. This is new ground, guys. We’re in it together.
If you’re in it with me, drop a comment below. What’s one numbing behavior you’re struggling with? What’s a fear that keeps you from setting a boundary with it? What’s one life-giving, soul-nourishing thing you could do instead?