Written By Charles Christian, Indonesia
A few years ago, I was introduced to a mobile game called “Temple Run”. The objective was simple: Run for as long as you can (avoid falling off the cliff, crashing into an obstacle, or being attacked by some furry creature) while trying to complete as many missions along the way. Every day, I would spend hours on my phone trying to complete the individual missions and collect “coins” so that I could upgrade power-ups and other characters. In short, I was addicted.
After a month, I realized that something was wrong. I didn’t respond to my mother’s requests for help as quickly as before. I didn’t pray and relate with people as much as before. I was also sleeping less and my eyes constantly felt tired from staring at my phone screen—after all, I was already spending eight hours a day at work staring at screens. Though I must admit the game was a lot of fun, I knew things had to change. It was taking up too much of my precious time.
So I decided to stop playing the game entirely. I considered uninstalling the game, but the realization that all I had achieved would be gone in a snap deterred me at the start. At some point, two reasons finally convinced me to uninstall the game: It was the sure way of getting rid of the temptation entirely and it helped free up some storage space on my phone.
From then on, I started to use the time to read the Bible and learn how to build a web application. Looking back at that season in my life, these were some of the practical things that helped me beat my addiction.
1. Understand the root problem
The problem behind my game addiction was not the game itself. The problem was me—I had misplaced my priorities. My self-enjoyment and appetite for fun had become my priority over more important things like my relationship with God and my family.
Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters: Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Though He was specifically referring to money in that verse, I believe this principle applies to everything and anything that takes God’s place in our lives.
I knew that I needed to reorder my priorities again, putting God first before other things in my life. But it’s easier said than done, and we need God’s help and constant reminders to set our priorities right.
2. Weigh the long term benefits and risks
It’s natural to only consider the short-term benefits and risks, and think that we’re doing fine. In the short run, the benefits always outweigh the risks. Initially, I didn’t see any significant risks in playing “Temple Run”—after all, the game was indeed fun.
But when I started to look at the long term risks versus benefits, I realized how much of a trade-off I was making. In the long run, I would have wasted a lot of time, missed many opportunities, soured many relationships, and perhaps even, damaged my health. Were there any benefits? Sure, bragging rights and fun. But it simply wasn’t worth it.
That said, it is often not in our nature to consider the long term effects; we need to make a deliberate effort to do this. This is exactly what Jesus Himself did when He knew He had to die on the cross. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Though the thought of bearing the cross brought Him much anguish (Luke 22:42), He saw the long term benefit—the joy that will result from His sacrifice—and faithfully went to the cross in obedience.
3. Nip the problem in the bud
Some people believe that getting rid of a bad habit is a gradual process. For example, if you’re trying to quit the habit of playing games on your mobile device, start by reducing the number of hours each week: five hours this week, then go down to four hours the following week and so on. Eventually, you’d stop playing altogether. While some people have found this method useful, it didn’t work for me. I ended up coming up with one excuse after the other to keep playing.
Making a clean break was the most effective measure in my case. It saved me from going through the “this-is-the-last-time” cycle which made it a lot harder to stop. Besides that, I experienced an instant benefit. All of a sudden, I had so much more free time!
For me, the account of Jesus and the adulterous woman helped me make this decision. Remember what Jesus said at the end of the episode? Jesus told her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). It was a command to make a 180 degree change. God wants us to leave our life of sin completely.
4. Replace the old habit with good habits
With the spare time you now have, it’s important to quickly identify a new hobby or habit that will enable you to use your time wisely and not be tempted to revert to your old ways. In my case, I decided to use the time to read my Bible and to learn a new skill.
5. Find an accountability partner
The Bible tells us that we are stronger when we walk together. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” I believe there is much value in having an accountability partner, someone whom we can share our struggles with and help us overcome the challenges. We can also get involved in a support group and keep each other in check.
Being an introvert, I struggle with sharing my difficulties with others. So as a start, I learned to share my struggles with God in prayer. And by His grace, He gave me trustworthy friends. They have been instrumental in helping me stay faithful to the commitments I have made.
Do you wish to beat your gaming addiction too? One important thing we need to bear in mind is: our actions do not just affect us. Think of our loved ones and how our actions will affect them if we do not change. But above all, think of everything God has given us and the price Jesus paid on the cross in order to save us.
Because of Him, our lives are changed. And may our lives be changed because of Him.
Editor’s Note: For further reading on addiction, read “When We Just Can’t Stop: Overcoming Addiction”.