“This feels weird.”

A favorite pastor suggests starting a needed {but awkward} discussion with precisely those words, as a way to set the conversational footing in an immediate stance of deference and humility.

Yep, sounds about right.

This feels weird.

Infotainment cognitive dissonance. I need to talk about it. I need my people to talk about it. And on the off chance that you need to talk about it—to hear the “me too,” this is my story, and it’s time to offer it up as the Lord works courage in me with a fierce tenderness.

First, a definition: infotainment cognitive dissonance is the simultaneous {and often subconscious} holding of views that men should entirely avoid materials that are any degree of graphic while women are capable of consuming materials which graze the line, so long as they don’t cross it. For women, it’s the reading, viewing, or thumb-swiping of something that comes right up to the edge of appropriateness and may be justified by the thought, “I’m not a guy so I’m not visually stimulated.” For me personally, it tends to fall the way of “social news,” as in people.com or The Bachelor franchise, but from what I understand it can also be categorized romance {think soap operas}, or voyeurism, by way of knowing shocking details about others’ lives {think Kardashians}. People.com is my kryptonite…I’ve been clean for some time now, but I still miss it every day.

I find Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lawrence positively charming and adore knowing what they wore when they stopped for a Starbucks in Soho. And I find The Bachelor to be the most fascinating social experiment of love in a vacuum, and an invariable treatise on how God made us to relate as two genders. Problem being, in order to know those tiny pieces of seemingly vital information, or gain access to knowledge of those {short-lived} relationships, I found myself scrolling through increasing amounts of stories I would be ashamed to click on, and viewing ever-increasing quantities of super cut dudes at pool parties. Frog in a kettle…frog in a kettle…

If you happen to read this and think I wrote these words from my seat of righteousness, while dressed in an ankle-length denim jumper and contemplating where I should donate the contents of my 401k, you couldn’t be more wrong. I type this with an itchy thumb—I would love to know what Jennifer Aniston and that adorable husband of hers are up to these days. And don’t think for a second I expect the writing of these words to keep me covered from the same temptation in the future. Evil’s just not that original; I fully expect to be repenting of this very topic within the day. And to think all this information is just a couple of taps away…whoa, I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be a God-seeking man in this digital age of “hidden” sin. 

Holiness in a people.com world 

Years ago a friend told me she put down the book club read because she wouldn’t want her husband reading it. It shocked me into awareness. {Though I wish I could say it shocked me into immediate action…it didn’t.} How could what I consume ever wind up consuming me?

I’ve consumed more seasons of The Bachelor/Bachelorette than I’d care to own up to. And more than half of them were watched with the tender voice of the Holy Spirit gently poking me, what are you doing?

If I want the men I love and care for to hear the still, quiet voice, don’t I want to be sensitive to it myself? Don’t I want the same protection that I pray over them? It’s no longer a hall pass—being a girl does not excuse me from intake accountability. Infotainment cognitive dissonance kills love.

It kills contentment.

It kills a thankful heart.

It kills the ability to avoid comparison.

It kills your ability to engage the men in your life with integrity when you ask them hard questions about what they’ve been viewing.

I have an ugly doctrinal history of believing what I did or didn’t do was in direct correlation to exactly how God felt about me that day. Purposefully choosing to abstain from kryptonite can take me back to those days in a jiff, and to the same oppressive hamster wheel of performing to gain God’s acceptance. But, by grace, I reject the lie that eighty-sixing people.com from my life {or not} dictates my standing with a holy God. I reject the lie that if my friends really love God they will eighty-six their own personal kryptonite as soon as they read this. I want to turn obedience on its head, and shout, “By no means!” to Paul’s Romans 6:1 question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

I want my motivation toward holiness to be love, not fear. To believe that this time, my obedience can come from a place of open-handed surrender to God’s best for me; it can come from a surrender that reminds me of Jesus—of love incarnate.

People of hope

For me, hitting people.com untold times in an hour is like popping jelly beans all day instead of sitting down and eating an actual meal. It will sustain me. I will not die. But is it really the best nourishment? And what are the true long-term consequences?

Will I inadvertently preach discontentment with my own life to my daughters?

Will I teach them to relish in the misfortunes or shocking details of others’ lives?

Will I model escapism?

Will my marriage be affected as my self-confidence takes a dive because I will never actually look like Taylor Swift or Jennifer Lawrence?

Will it make me less available for daily interaction with Jesus?

Those stakes are way high. Those consequences make itchy thumb look more like chronic disease than runny nose. And that makes me long for the treatment of repentance, belief in the transformative power of the cross, and hope for change.

If your kryptonite happens to be the exact same web site and TV show as mine, please don’t hear this as a call to legalistic action. {Unless that’s what the Holy Spirit is doing…minus the legalistic part…which, in that case: have at it Holy Spirit.} But please hear this: we are a people of hope, of new life—a people who claim Christ’s redemptive power, both for today and for the future. And as people of hope, we are destined for the only place of real hope, heaven, where we sure as anything won’t have to self-censor.

I have repented, I have believed in the completed work of the cross as total covering of my sin, and I am fighting to stay away. By God’s grace, I want to be changed. I want to live a transformed mind kind of life.

But just because my mind is being transformed doesn’t mean it’s not jonesing for a Starbucks right now, so who wants to get dressed up super cute and go with me? Just so long as you promise to tell me whether or not my outfit is even in style anymore, because how am I ever going to tell?

Holly Mackle writes and gardens in Birmingham, Alabama. She is wife to David and mama of two flower-sneaking bitties. She is the editor of engagingmotherhood.com, an author of the collaborative study for new moms, Engaging Motherhood: Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling (2016), and author of the family advent devotional, Little Hearts, Prepare Him Room (2016). Holly blogs life and tomatoes and diggingsuburbia and is the humorist for joegardener.com.