Graceful Extremism

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I have a good friend who’s raising his four kids without a TV in the home. We all had dinner a while back and I was most impressed with his children, especially his oldest, who’s about 18. It’s obvious she loves the Lord and wants to grow in her faith. For this family, “extremism” (at least by today’s cultural norms) is working.

But it was not the path my wife and I chose while raising our children. We had (and have) a television set in our home. However, we were careful about what we watched and tried (and I believe succeeded) in being discerning when it came to our family’s entertainment choices.

When I speak to churches and conferences, I often talk about the two extreme parenting styles: permissive and legalistic. I don’t have time to fully unpack these here, but suffice it to say that a family that throws the TV out the window is most often, at least in my view, in the legalistic camp. Certainly, some families navigate the “no TV” well (like the family I reference above). I tell my audience that I applaud those who manage to pull it off. I know why they do it and I totally buy their argument that television is just too negative an influence for their family. Still, this sort of extremism can backfire. Many children raised in this type of family are simply counting down the days ’til they leave home so they can do what they want! Hardly a win for the parents.

I feel the same way about social media. I was not the father who mandated, “There will be no Facebook usage in this home!” My wife and I tried to teach and show that social media has its place, but it was to be a minor one. As a family it was OK to use Facebook—but we didn’t want Facebook using us.

We all know someone who overdoes when it comes to Facebook. Even strong believers. They start their day on the network. They end their day there. They check it constantly and can’t imagine a day in which they don’t post at least once, if not ten times. All told, they probably invest an hour to three hours a day reading and posting.

As believers in Jesus, it behooves us to want to obey, honor and glorify Him. And in that, it demands that we “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). But sometimes we simply get carried away and let a good thing, or a relatively neutral thing (like playing good video games or being on Instagram) consume way more time than must please the Lord.

Former Newsboys bassist Phil Joel (now with the band Zealand Worship) sent me a wonderful letter a few years ago, saying that he and his wife, Heather, were fans of my book, Plugged In Parenting. Since then we’ve stayed in touch. Earlier this week, I sent him a text just to catch up. His reply included a link to this YouTube video. I watched it and was challenged by it.

In it, (as I hope you’ll see after watching), Phil explains that someone once coached him that for his new band to really make it, he’d need to be on Facebook, giving regular updates. He bought into the logic of that. Shortly thereafter, though, his family sat him down for what he calls an intervention. His Facebooking had gone from an occasional, healthy interaction to a consuming obsession. That’s when Phil decided to quit cold turkey.

I like that Phil isn’t out preaching that everyone should stay away from Facebook. He realizes that many can be on it reasonably. But he also knows there are a lot like him that go too far. For those who need to pull the plug, Phil calls it “graceful extremism.”

I’d encourage you to watch the YouTube interview and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I honor the Lord with the amount of time I spend on social media, or do I tend to go overboard?
  • Are there some media products that I, like Phil, need to pull the plug on, maybe for a day, maybe a week or a month, or maybe indefinitely?
  • Am I in need of some graceful extremism in my own life?

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When my husband was young his family's TV died and his parents never bought a new one until he was in college. He says looking back it was a good thing for him and his siblings because it forced them to find other ways to keep themselves "entertained". They grew up reading books and playing outside and building things. My family has always had a TV and I grew up with it basically always on. Unfortunately, it's a habit I have carried into my married life - and something I am trying to break. We don't have cable, but Netflix and Amazon Prime provide plenty of distractions. I don't necessarily want to raise my kids without a TV, but I don't want them consuming as much as I did growing up. It can be a difficult balance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My family raised me and my brothers without cable. We would rent movies from the library or buy some if they were really good. When people learn this about us, I'm always amused that they think we're cavemen, underprivileged, or just weird. But we've turned out pretty well so far.