Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Gnawing on TV to Satisfy a Hungry Heart

In a spurt of decisiveness earlier this summer, I put my television in my basement. I had decided to face my screen addiction head on. Summer seemed like a good time to go cold turkey. I had envisioned sitting on my patio working through the mountain of books on my “to be read” shelf, or taking my dog on long lingering walks, or weeding my garden, or calling a friend. I had imagined hours freed up for creative pursuits.

Turns out it’s easy to cheat. I can’t quite bring myself to cancel my Netflix account which means I can watch TV on my phone. I took the app off my phone. Then put it back on. It’s off again. I’ve learned that I’m not watching TV just because it’s there. I watch TV because I’m looking for something. It’s a kind of hunger, but TV doesn’t satisfy. It just makes me hungrier. It’s like eating the homemade treats brought to the church office when I’ve skipped breakfast. 

My television addiction is a spiritual issue. It’s not that I’m lazy, procrastinating, or irresponsible (or any of the other soundtracks that run through my head). The root of my addiction is spiritual hunger. I’m looking for connection, for aliveness. I am most susceptible to television watching (and Facebook scrolling) when I have a longing that I cannot satisfy on my own. 

Maybe the question to ask myself when I’m wanting to watch TV isn’t so much, “What I can be doing instead” but “What is it that I really and truly want?” Wanting can be uncomfortable, even scary. What if I realize I want something that I can’t have? I feel like I learned someplace (from the Bible? from some theologian?) that our deepest longings have their source in God. It sounds like something I would say in a sermon. Maybe it’s time I believed myself. Augustine of Hippo said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Maybe he was right.


  1. Darrow Woods

    This “hungry heart” stuff is my preaching topic for Sunday. I am going to look back at a book by the Canadian physician Gabor Mate’, who does street medicine in Vancouver, working with folks struggling with addiction issues. The book is called The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and references the Buddhist notion of the source of seemingly insatiable cravings.

    • admin

      Sounds like a great book! I’l check it out.

  2. Julie

    Yes- how interesting. I work mostly from home, and I always have my TV on in the background. Not that I am watching it- just to have the noise. I asked myself “why do you need this noise?” So I shut it off and turned on some quiet background music. This reflection hit home. Thank you

    • admin

      I can totally relate. I use the TV a lot for company.
      Thanks for your reflection.

  3. Jane Eesley

    Beautiful and courageous! Thank you!

    • admin

      thanks, Jane

  4. Erin P. Gosser

    I definitely notice my Facebook scrolling increase on days where I have a hunger for socialization. It is a hard habit to crack, even when we know better.

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