Why I Didn’t Read Fiction for Seven Years
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | September 5, 2018
From the time I was 17 years old to almost 25, I gave up reading fiction.
It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing for me to do.
As I’ve shared on Project Inspired before, I was first exposed to sexuality through the pages of a romance novel I found at a garage sale. I was 12 when this happened. My encounter with the novel led me down a path of addiction and sexual sin, something I battled even as I was growing in faith. In the middle of this struggle, I realized my inability to grow in victory was connected to the things I read, listened to and watched.
It’s very hard to overcome sexual sin or discontentment when you are constantly exposed to the thing you desire most (relational discontentment is a big part of sexual addiction; many women turn to porn, erotica and masturbation when they’re lonely or angry about their singleness). As a voracious reader, I wanted to stay up to date on the latest novels and recommended books. But each time I tried, the books inevitably contained a sex scene (if secular) or strong romantic themes (Christian) that only pushed me further into fantasy and discontent.
So at 17, I stopped reading fiction. And I didn’t read it again until I was almost 25, married and had my first daughter.
If you’re aghast at this commitment, I’d encourage you to read on. My commitment to cut out fiction was not because fiction is inherently wrong. Giving up fiction was the necessary sacrifice for me to pursue holiness and walk in victory. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make in order to draw closer to Jesus.
If you are struggling to find victory in an area of life—whether sexual sin, fantasy, discontent or laziness—you must be honest with yourself about the things you’re accepting. Are you accepting things in your life that are hampering your spiritual growth? Just because someone else can handle it doesn’t mean you can. This is something I had to realize!
Whether you need to give up fiction, a smart phone or something else, here are three things to know about a life of victory.
1. We should be willing to give up anything keeping us from a close walk with God.
Do you turn to Netflix day after day, but don’t have “time” for meeting God in His Word? Do you—like I did—spend hours consuming the latest novel, but wonder why you’re more worried about finding a boyfriend than knowing God on a deeper level? Whatever is keeping you from a closer walk with God needs to go. It may not be forever. I read fiction on occasion in my current stage of life. But in my former stage of my life, I had to give up the thing that was keeping me from a mind centered on Jesus.
We all have the same amount of hours in the day. We have the same amount of brain space available. I was filling up that space and those hours with fictional stories about couples, making myself more discontent, instead of filling up my mind with the truth of God’s unconditional love for me.
2. We should be willing to give up anything we use to hide from discontent.
We aren’t always aware of our spiritual “crutches,” but they’re there. They are the things we turn to—harmless, even good things—instead of running to God. It might be coffee, gossip, TV, novels or sugar. Whatever you turn to when you’re discontent, whatever place you run to when you’re hiding from negative feelings of discontent or jealousy, needs to be laid at the foot of the Cross. It cannot save you. It cannot comfort you long term. If anything, it will only drive a wedge between you and your Savior and keep you enslaved to its substance. For me, the substance was fiction. It kept me enslaved to my own fantasy, bound to unrealistic depictions of relationships and unable to recognize a real one when it came along.
3. We should be willing to give up the things other people can handle if those things are inhibiting our faith.
Each of us has our own struggles. As I stated before, you may not struggle with fantasizing about relationships or sex. You might not become discontent or develop unrealistic expectations from reading a book. But maybe you can’t eat certain things without bingeing, or you can’t be kind and gracious without coffee. These actions reveal a dependency on a substance instead of on Christ, and even if your friend can handle them, you have to be honest about your own walk with the Lord. It may be that He is calling you to lay these things down in order to grow closer to Him.
I hope your takeaway from this article is not “fiction is bad.” I hope you’ve understood the point: Jesus wants all of you in your relationship with Him. Not a partial dependency or a partial faith. All of you. Don’t let anything get in the way of the victory He has for you.