When my husband first suggested that we get rid of cable television, I thought that something must be seriously wrong with him. I mean, our lives didn’t revolve around the TV schedule, but we enjoyed the occasional weekend marathon of reruns or old movies. We both work full time, my husband sometimes chalking up over 70 hours in a week, and we are raising three young children. Solid, reliable “TV time” was limited to a handful of shows we watched faithfully and the fall football season. In recent years we had gotten in the habit of turning on the TV as a means of escape, to distract us from the trials and tribulations of real life. So what in the world had provoked this ESPN-loving fan of teen flicks to not just willingly but voluntarily recommend dropping 90% of our channels? The kids! Our children had become over-consumers of television, turning it on first thing in the morning and returning to it any chance they had. It was causing countless arguments, contributing to bad attitudes, distracting them from their daily responsibilities, and essentially ruling their worlds. So we got rid of it! And to be honest, we don’t miss it at all! Well, except for when a Virginia Tech football game isn’t aired on local networks nor streaming online. The bigger, more important results we see are kids with better attitudes, more active time, enhanced creativity, and fewer power struggles. My husband and I find ourselves getting more done, spending more quality time with each other and with our kids, and being more purposeful about our TV time. You see, almost every show on cable is available online, if not immediately then within a few days. Now, rather than turning on the TV and browsing the stations purely out of habit, we have to get online and search purposefully for a specific show to watch. There are surprisingly few shows that are worth this effort! We have learned that when we consume, whether it be TV, food, or anything else, we must do it with purpose!
Defining the problem
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the prefix “over-” is defined as “so as to exceed or surpass; excessive; to an excessive degree” and the definition of “consume” includes “to do away with completely; to spend wastefully; to eat or drink especially in great quantity; to engage fully; to waste or burn away”. Together these sound dreadful! So it’s no surprise that over-consumption leaves us feeling empty, alone, and wasted away. Yet as Americans, we are the champions of over-consumption, both collectively and as individuals.
What are you over-consuming?
Ask yourself, “What am I over-consuming?”, and if you are a parent, “What are my children over-consuming?” Then be honest in answering. Some probable areas:
- Food – According to the CDC, 33.8% of adults in the US are obese. Even worse, 17% of children ages 2-19 are obese.
- Alcohol – Most doctors and health experts recommend 2 or fewer alcoholic beverages per day. What many ignore is that these numbers are based on suggested serving sizes of 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, and 1.5 oz of liquor.
- Screen Time – The American Association of Pediatrics recommends 2 hours or less of total screen time a day for children and teens. Yet with the increased popularity of TV, the Internet and video games, our youth are spending astonishing amounts of time in front of a screen. I was dumbfounded when some of the high school students I teach started comparing their screen times on various video games. On one popular game, many had logged 15-30 days within 6-9 months. Keep in mind that a “day” is a complete 24 hours of usage. I quickly began to research, suspecting exaggeration, but found that surveys show that the average gamer on each of the most popular games logs around 20 hours per week. On one game. Not including television or social networking time. WOW!
- Material Goods – It only takes one episode of a reality show about hoarding to make us think twice about all of the “stuff” we have!
The finger can be pointed in many directions: capitalism, technology, the breakdown of the family unit, the need for instant gratification, just plain old bad habits…the list goes on. No matter the reason, the root is the same. We are trying to fill our souls with things that cannot fill them. Thus, the need to consume more and more, yet never feel satisfied.
Consuming with Purpose
Once you identify areas of over-consumption in your own life, think about alternatives. What could you be consuming, or perhaps doing, that would bring you greater fulfillment and deeper satisfaction? Make a list of ideas that will actually nurture your spirit and strengthen your relationships, and then use the list! In my family, we have opted to fill our former TV time with things such as reading, prayer, playing board games and family outings. Spongebob and Dora just can’t compare to hiking along a creek through a lush forest to swim beneath a 69 ft. waterfall!
What is your soul crying out for? Consume with purpose and you will reap abundant rewards!