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I Love Thee, My TV

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I love watching TV. When I get home from work, all I want to do is catch up on TV. I follow at least four TV series. All of them are not faith-related. In fact, some of them I think are quite contrary to our faith (based on the behaviour of characters, and stories these shows tell). Is it wrong for me to keep watching them? What advice can you give?

Br Dominic Yeo-Koh SG

On its Own, watching TV does not say much about who you are and what it does for you. But what you allow TV to do to you will determine the effect it can have upon you. A constant exposure of yourself to things that does not carry much positive value in life can definitely erode your value system. I would think that one has to be selective about what one watches on TV.

If I watch TV to provide me some moments of relaxation and entertainment, I would think it is fine to spend an hour or so watching. However, if I just spent most of my time watching meaningless TV serials, it is not only a sheer waste of time but we are also taking in unconsciously the unhealthy values that they may promote. I would think that some serials do not have any educational value at all. It is important to choose wisely the serials that you will watch. A captivating serial may not necessarily be one that provides good family and social values, not to say if it has any spiritual values at all.

One problem with some TV serials is that they can be very engaging and you can become addicted. The addictive nature of such media can cause us to become blind to what they may portray. It is necessary to make a conscious effort to evaluate such TV shows as to whether they help to build you up or if they are destroying your good value system.

A sign of TV addiction is when there is a sense of compulsion that you cannot do without the TV. You will likely arrange all your appointments, work, and family life around the TV schedule. The rest of the world does not seem to matter anymore when you are in front of the TV. It is important to learn to break away from the routine of watching TV serials and spend your time more constructively, such as engaging in charitable and church work, reading a good book, having a meaningful conversation, or participating in healthy sports. Alternatively, you can spend time watching inspiring or biblically themed movies. Some of these can be very entertaining, such as Ben-Hur.

Fr Paul Staes CICM

Before wondering whether something we do is wrong (or right), it is good to first ask ourselves a few other important questions, like: What is it that I am really doing? What place, meaning and function does this activity have in my everyday life and in my overall life vision? Does this behaviour – and the underlying motivation and attitudes as well – help me to be the person I want to be, does it set me free to become more and more who I am (called to be), do I truly enjoy this and does it help me to be a joy also to others? What is the impact of my behaviour on others? Is this the loving thing to do? It is in addressing basic questions like this that we can explore, without fear or quick cut-and-dry answers, and ultimately discover whether an activity we engage in is “wrong” (or right).

Obviously, this process of moral evaluation of a given activity is not just an uniquely individual matter that would be “new and original” in each and every instance. There are some rules of thumb, there is one’s own past experience and the wisdom and experience of others, there may even be objective moral norms. All these are helpful guides for us to make a personal judgment, but they never can impose the answer a-priori. The issue at stake is not whether “IT” is right or wrong but, rather, whether, in doing what I do, I AM ACTING morally or immorally.

How do I apply these general principles of Christian moral living to the mundane question of watching TV? Clearly, some questions and issues are more crucial than others, but nothing can be written off as completely irrelevant or without any moral significance. The very fact that the person raising those questions considers him/herself to be “addicted” already indicates that we are dealing here with a genuine question. Without knowing much more, we sense that other values most likely suffer, like interaction with family members, creative activities for personal growth and community service.

Regarding the place of TV, I have my own personal preference: a relatively small set and no cable (out of fear I would be watching too much). But I have learnt not to advocate this for others. When blessing a home, I complimented a young couple that they did not have a huge TV set almost like an “altar” in their living room, and no TV in the bedroom. Then I saw that, instead, there was a projector hanging from the ceiling. And after a year the wife told me, “Father, if only we had a TV in the bedroom my husband would spend the evenings with me in bed. Now he’s sitting alone in our home theater until the early morning hours.” Since then I’ve had to think twice before giving direct advice!

Sr Angeline Lim FMDM

Watching TV is a form of relaxation for some people. However, as in any activity, if the hours spent watching TV mean that you would neglect your duties as a responsible adult, then it would be wise to cut down on the hours of watching TV.

There is nothing wrong with watching TV that is not faith-related, even if they are contrary to our faith. You have the choice to make sound judgement. However, if watching TV programmes that are contrary to our faith disturb you unduly, then I would suggest that you do not watch them.

Watching TV excessively can be a form of addiction. If you know this and it is causing disharmony within yourself and your family, then I would suggest that you curtail the hours you watch and be selective in what you watch.

It would be better to watch programmes on TV that give you inspiration and peace than to watch something that would cause you undue disturbance.

 

Panelists only have the question to work with and have not seen each other’s advice. Their advice and suggestions reflect their personal opinions and do not represent a one-size-fits all solution. For one who may face this, or a similar situation, and want more specific advice, please speak with a suitable spiritual director.