Distractions

I had to confess to my fiancee today that I have been playing an online game to the point where it’s distracted me from my work. I’ve had a problem with gaming for a long time. Sometimes, I’m good about it. I play responsibly. A Saturday morning or an hour before I go to bed to relax me. Sometimes, though, and especially lately, I’ve played in the morning before work, taken breaks to play for 15 minutes here or there, played during lunch, and played for two hours or more at night. Plus, because I can take a minute or two several times an hour and earn in-game money, I do that as well. The end result is that, as hard as I’ve tried to work, this game has become not only a distraction, but an addiction.

And so I’ve given it up. No playing at all, even at night or on weekends. That goes for all internet games. It even goes for the board games I make up, save when I have nothing work-related to do but write, but have major writer’s block. 

I may be a little extreme here, but the real reason I’m giving all these up is not just because they’re interfering with my work. I’m not a 100-hour-a-week workaholic. There’s the work side, but there’s also the effect these games are having on my self-confidence. You see, I need to win. In the game that inspired this post, there are battles between players and rewards for achieving a certain rating in tournaments. There are new weapons and characters to unlock or buy. New quests. New levels. More, more, more, more…

And I had to have it all. I would get upset with myself for losing battles. Sometimes, I even insulted myself and lost my temper. The game isn’t worth that. Nothing in there is real. Nothing in there actually matters. And all the time I’ve spent playing it could have been more effectively spent working out, reading the Bible, writing, editing, sending out book proposals, trying to market my books, or even sleeping and letting my body get some rest.

Even recognizing this was a waste of time wasn’t enough to get me to stop playing, though. I needed the surge of power I felt from crushing someone or the sense of accomplishment from achieving something I’d been trying for weeks to do.

The truth is, if my self-confidence had been what it should be, I wouldn’t have needed validation from anything outside of God, let alone some game that has no bearing whatsoever on my reality, no matter how well I do in it.

So where am I going with this? This post is not a confession, or even a teaching, but rather a challenge. I want you to find something in your life this week that you’re getting some sense of self-worth from and cut it. (Naturally, there are limits. If you get it from your looks, I don’t suggest you go to work in sweats and without showering or combing your hair. If it’s work, I don’t suggest you quit.) What I suggest is that you cut the part where you think about how valuable or worthless your performance in these things makes you. If it’s something you can entirely cut, do so. Use the time you would have spent on that hobby or activity to think about the principles of confidence or to work on something that does matter. If it’s not something you can cut, force yourself to replace every thought that threatens or boosts your feeling of self-worth with, “It doesn’t matter because my self-worth is fixed and higher than any achievement/relationship/possession/skill/attractiveness can ever make me worth.” 

In short, stop doing things that make you feel worthless or that you get your sense of self-worth from. Your worth comes from God’s opinion of you and that alone. You can’t change His opinion, nor can you become more (or less) valuable than you already are. Don’t let a game tell you you’re worthless when the King of the Universe says you are worth His Son.

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