Many years ago I worked as a computer programmer and one of the things I learned was the acronym GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage Out) which simply means that if what you typed in to the computer was rubbish you would get rubbish out. And there is a lot of truth to GIGO when we relate it to other things; such as a car, if you put bad oil or petrol in it then it isn’t going to work as well as it should. And it is the same with us especially when it comes to what we watch, read and listen to; in my case that was especially true when it came to what I watched.
To give you an idea of what my viewing habits were here is a snapshot of what my day use to be like, remembering I work from home, that doesn’t always feel like a blessing. As soon as I got up I would put the TV on and during the morning I would have cooking shows, repeats of American sitcoms, and shows about storage auctions on as background noise. The afternoon would be more of the same with the occasional quiz show or house buying show thrown in to the mix and yes it would be more of the same in the evening, usually ending up with a movie being put on to finish the day off with. If I had to walk to town I would listen to a local radio station with my headphones in and my head looking down at the pavement. And as someone who reviews movies for a living I would watch a variety of movies from comedies to violent horror movies.
What I never realised was what this daily diet of TV was doing to me, how much of a negative effect it was having on how I thought and felt, till God challenged me over what I was watching. Now there was the obvious side to this which comes from watching certain types of movies, such as horror movies, because after a while you end up becoming numb to the violence and torture which these days fill these movies. It is why with each passing year movies tend to up the stakes by delivering bigger special effects, more graphic sex scenes and even more violence and gore than you thought was acceptable. Trust me when I say what passes as a certificate 15 these days here in the UK would have struggled to get an 18 certificate 30 years ago.
But there is another side to what I was watching which I had never considered as there are those cooking shows I love where you have these presenters with their beautiful kitchens and larders full of all kinds of produce. Of course you don’t want to see someone cooking in a grubby kitchen with a cigarette hanging out the side of their mouth but this picture of perfection can make you feel inferior when you don’t have that beautiful oven, those herbs on hand and of course the latest blender and fancy kitchen gadget. And as for those storage wars type shows well most of the entertainment comes from the dog eat dog nastiness and someone ending up losing money. It is little wonder that most days I would feel bitter, angry that I didn’t have the nice house and the fancy kitchen whilst thinking what can I do to beat my competition when it came to business so I can get the stuff I want.
Yet there is also another side to the garbage I use to watch and it is again some thing which I hadn’t truly realised until through God I took myself out of the situation. I would build my life around watching those TV shows, not going out till a certain show had finished, making sure I would have eaten before another one started and so on even if it was a repeat of a sitcom I had watched countless times before to the point I could quote it. Looking back my life kind of reminded me of that lived by Hugh Grant’s character in the movie “About a Boy” who lived in time units of no more than 30 minutes with one unit was for watching Countdown.
Of course television wasn’t even invented back when the Bible was written yet it certainly has some apt advice in it when it comes to TV
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things – Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Now it may say think about those things but you all know what you watch you end up thinking about and if you watch shows which entertain through being nasty towards others then they are going to affect how you think and behave often without you even realising that they are changing your attitude. Not only that we have a current trend when it comes to TV shows which want to force their opinions on you to the point of making you feel wrong if you have a different opinion be it politics, gender or any other issue which divides the world. To put this bluntly, you may think that you watch TV to be entertained but TV can change the way you think and feel, so be warned.
And then there is this
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. 1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)
Did your read that, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions” and yes TV does that as it encourages us to buy the things we see, to aspire to have the life of those we watch, and instant fame. And when that doesn’t come what does is bitterness as you feel life is unfair and that is accompanied by bitterness’ partner in crime, depression, who is often not far behind.
Now I could mention other scriptures but the best thing I can do is to give you a snapshot of what has happened to me since being challenged by God and realising how much TV was controlling me. Not only have I become more selective over what I watch but I realised the other day that I am watching maybe an hour, two hours at most of TV a day, some times none at all and I don’t miss it one bit. Instead I put on a Christian radio station whilst working and when I go out walking I use that time to meditate on the word, pray for passing drivers and marvel at the World God has created rather than having my head down and avoiding eye contact with people. And the outcome of all this is that the bitterness which once filled my life has all but gone and instead I have a more positive outlook.
Yet here is the WARNING, and this deserves to be in bold because on those days where I find myself slipping back in to my old viewing habits, leaving the TV on after a show I wanted to watch has finished, I can feel that mood change and despondency creeping in, trying to take grip of me again.
So my challenge is for anyone who has found themselves here and who know in their heart that they are watching too much TV to think about how it makes you feel and look at cutting it down, being more selective over what you watch and turning it off when the show you were watching is over. And maybe you don’t feel like you have a problem when it comes to TV, well maybe you can follow the advice of a TV show I used to love back in the 80s, “Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead?”