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Monday, October 24, 2016

Vicarious Thrills: How They Mess Up Your Heart

I was first exposed to romance novels when I was maybe eleven or twelve years old—Grace Livingstone Hill. I think I read everything she ever wrote. Boy meets girl. One is rich. One is poor. One is Christian. One is not. The chemistry is there, and they date, and on a June day, they marry. By their wedding day, the other one is a Christian, too, and everything ends with hearts and flowers.

I got over Grace Livingstone Hill about the age of fifteen. Her novels were too predictable, so very unreal, and I was discontent. I still read romances, though. Some were great, and some not so great. I loved Christy by Catherine Marshall and Victoria Holt’s gothic novels. I enjoyed Phyllis Whitney, because I like to be a little bit scared along with the romance. At about twenty-five, I read a few by Barbara Cartland, the grande dame of romance stories—and began to dislike romance all together.


It’s because romance novels manipulate your emotions. They make you fall in love with the protagonist. They make you believe a lie, feel the thrills of that lie, and they keep you turning pages to read about illicit or unreal love affairs . . . . Ultimately, they make you discontent with your life.

I’ve never read “hot” stories. I have never read an erotic book. I rarely even read any authors other than those in the “Christian” genre. Yet, even in Amish and Christian titles, some of the romances titillate the senses, describe scenes only found in fairy tales, and cause thousands of wives to be discontent—and addicted to the stories—because the stories satisfy, in a morbid sort of way. By dissatisfying, they draw you back for more vicarious thrills . . . and leave you feeling emptier than ever . . . in your heart.

(I could extend this post to other genres, of course, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stay with fiction romance novels.)

It’s hard to draw a line. The truth is that some women are more or less affected, and each woman understands her own reaction. Does the fiction arouse in you feelings of voyeurism? Is the story about scenes that are better left behind closed doors? Is there any immorality going on, or is there too much description of touching? Does it make you short of breath? Does the story cause you to think, “I wish my husband were more like the protagonist?” You know how the fiction you read affects you. You know if your emotions and thoughts go in the wrong direction. You know if the end result is despising your husband because he doesn’t: read your thoughts, hug you with perfect timing, show up and slay all your dragons, say the exact words you want to hear when you want to hear them, compliment you, etc., etc. If you’re single, do the books you read make you crave a man?

What does God think of novels (or any other kinds of entertainment) that describe lustful scenes?
  • I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple (innocent) concerning evil (Romans 16:19b).
  • For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret (Ephesians 5:12).
  • But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15).
  • For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
If you are reading, and you experience what I’ve described above, the course of action is simple: 
  1. Close the book. Quit. Stop. Don’t go back to it. If you're reading a paperback, the recycling container is a great place for it. On Kindle, you can “archive” it to get rid of it on your menu.
  2. Get into the Bible. Replace lustful thinking with God’s thoughts. They are higher, nobler, purer. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  3. Enjoy your husband as he is. He’s real. The story is not. Let your conversation (way of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have (Hebrews 13:5a). If you’re single, you need the same: contentment with what you have now. (That’s what this verse is saying.)
Vicarious thrills have spoiled many a good marriage. They've cooked up expectations that no human being could ever meet. Many women have become bitter and discontent. These cause singles to believe that all they need is a man.

A romance novel is fiction—a made-up story. Almost all romance is written by women to sell to women. So, they make up the hottest, most exciting story they can dream up, write it down, and get it published, so that many women all over the world will flip pages and vicariously experience the pleasure.

I think it’s time for Christian women to analyze what they feed their minds: novels, TV, entertainment, online viewing, music videos, movies, and even porn. It’s time for us to draw lines for ourselves and exercise discipline. We want to please God and enjoy a normal, content, and happy life. Choose clean, wholesome authors. Choose books that contain a lot more than romance--where the romance isn't the main thing. Try adventure, male authors, and suspense.

May God bless you!

This I say then,
Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
(Galatians 5:16)


  1. Ouch, my dear! You DO tackle the touchiest subjects and hit the most hidden nerves! ;) Thanks for your thoughtful insight in what was a difficult battle for me. :) By God's grace I keep praying for continued victory.

  2. Once again you absolutely hit the nail on the head!! I too, grew up reading GLH, (my mom was a huge fan) as well as other Christian fiction writers who usually had romance of some sort in their books. As a single young lady, there was no way a real live man was ever going to meet up to the fantastical expectations I was developing for the ideal husband in my head! I am so thankful for the working of the Holy Spirit in my life with regards to this issue. I think your post was spot on! I gave away all 200 plus of those books before I got married and I am so thankful for my in real life Prince Charming that God has given me- my wonderful, imperfect husband! He is so very gracious and kind. God's real life best for us is way better than anything the fiction world can produce.
    Thanks again for the insightful post!
    Hugs from Hokkaido,

    1. Thank you, Shellee. Yes, real life is better. God bless you!


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