Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. [1 John 2:16-17 (MSG)]
While writing about curiosity yesterday, I began to think about our insatiable curiosity concerning the lives of others. Some people think nothing of asking how much it cost, how much you’re paid, what the grade was, and if you had sex. The number of fans of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, tell-all books, gossip magazines, tabloids, and reality TV tells me we want to know all that and more. On the other hand, considering all those who freely share the most intimate details of their lives with the world, it occurs to me that curiosity and braggadocio may be two sides of the same coin. We have talk shows where the more salacious the content the better and people come to blows after revealing sordid betrayals. We have assorted judge shows where in-law problems, unknown paternity, infidelity and other poor choices reign. Private disagreements and personal relationships are openly aired for the curious world. While we seem to have an voracious appetite for the messed up lives of celebrities, former celebrities, one-time-wonders, housewives, bachelors, bachelorettes, the rich and privileged, and just about everyone else, many of them seem to have an incredible willingness to exhibit it all. Sadly, our curiosity has turned parading one’s private life into a business (the more dysfunctional the better.)
As much as I struggle to understand why any of us are interested in these folks, I find it even harder to understand why people would choose to make a spectacle of their lives. It’s conceit, egotism and a weird sort of arrogance that leads people to think that, no matter how appalling, their every thought, feeling, experience or intimate moment is worth sharing with the world. People have become so immodest that they will bare their souls and just about everything else to complete strangers. I know reality TV isn’t very real; circumstances are contrived so that controversy is sure to occur and that makes it even harder to understand why people would allow themselves to be manipulated for their five minutes of fame (or infamy). They are like exhibitionists who leave the curtains half open to dance in front of the window and their curious audience is like the voyeur who peeks through those curtains. Along with curiosity, it may be escapism but why would we want to escape into lives like those?
Granted, there is a difference between viewing chefs contend for top honors, brainiacs compete for money, super athletes vie for a title, or celebrities dance for a trophy and watching people engage in attention-grabbing, inappropriate or self-destructive behavior. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between innocent interest and prurient curiosity. Crossing that line leads us into sin’s territory where we encounter judgment and pride when we compare ourselves to the shows’ participants. While we may not be as sexy, attractive or rich, we congratulate ourselves because we’re nicer, saner, smarter, more moral, and far less selfish and superficial. Pride puffs us up because we don’t hoard or commit adultery and we know enough not to brawl in public or make a sex tape. Self-righteous, we pat ourselves on the back for not living vicariously through our talented children or exploiting our families. We feel superior because we’re better behaved, pay our debts and know who fathered our children. To rework Jeff Foxworthy’s state fair quote: “If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is watch reality TV because pretty soon you’ll be going, ‘You know, we’re alright. We are dang near royalty!’” Let’s not fool ourselves—we’re no better!
Perhaps it’s time to check our curiosity and rethink how we spend our time and with what we fill our minds.