Hello, book lovers! I’ve gone rogue for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday—although perhaps not as rogue as it may at first appear. This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl is Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested in Reading. I’ll be honest; that stumped me. But after discussing the Reasons to Read Christian Romance last week, I thought it only fair to acknowledge that there are also reasons NOT to read romance novels—Christian or otherwise. And if you consider that this week’s topic has a ‘not reading’ slant to it, I’m not quite so off-topic as it sounds. If you squish it a bit. And maybe twist it slightly sideways. 😜
So, when might it not be profitable to read romance novels?
1. If It Goes Against Your Conscience
Some people believe Christians shouldn’t read romance novels. If you read last week’s post, you’ll know I’m not one of them, however the Bible strongly warns us against acting against our conscience, and so I would say to you, if you believe Christians shouldn’t read romance novels, DON’T READ ROMANCE NOVELS.
Paul addresses the matter of going against your conscience in Romans chapter 14, and although he is addressing the subject of whether it is okay to eat food some regarded as unclean, the principle can be applied to all matters of conscience: “Whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Strong words, huh! The act itself may not be a sin, but if you do it believing it to be a sin, then you’ve sinned. So if my previous post has given you some food for thought, by all means, be a Berean; investigate for yourself. Maybe you’ll end up agreeing with me. But maybe you won’t, and that’s okay too. But whatever you end up believing, be true to your own conscience.
2. If It Causes You to Become Dissatisfied with Your Life
As Christians, we are called to Rejoice in the Lord always. Sometimes, depending on where we are in life, romance novels have the opposite effect. Maybe it’s the fact that every character seems to have more money than you, maybe it’s the character’s fabulous looks, or the muscular hero. Maybe you find yourself comparing your husband (or wife, if you’re one of the rare men who will admit to picking up a romance novel) to the characters you’re reading about, and seeds of discontent are beginning to sprout.
Whatever the reason, if romance novels are feeding your discontent, it’s time to change your literary diet.
3. If You’re Investing More Time in Your Fictional Romances Than Your Real Romance
We all like to escape, and romances are great for that. But when escapism becomes avoidance or neglect, we’re doing ourselves a disservice, particularly when it comes to real-life relationships. And that’s not necessarily limited to romantic ones.
Last week I said that reading romance novels can remind you of what a gift romance is, but don’t let yourself get so caught up in reminding yourself that you forget to apply your knowledge!
4. When Romance Novels Send the Wrong Message
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Did you know that the brain doesn’t process negative words the way you would expect? (Stay with me here!) If you call out to your child, “Don’t run,” guess what image you’ve immediately fixed in their mind? That’s right. Running. If you really don’t want your children to run, you’re much better off giving them the instruction to walk. And that advice applies to all sorts of things in life. The brain just doesn’t process the negative part of the instruction.
Try telling yourself, “Don’t think about pizza.” Did it work?
There are millions of romance novels out there that send our brains the wrong messages. While you might be thinking, “I know that’s the wrong thing to do,” or “It’s just a story,” repeatedly exposing yourself to stories that tell you it’s acceptable or desirable is conditioning your brain to accept it. That’s at least part of the reason why Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
If you’re constantly reading novels where characters enter into physical relationships outside of marriage, where lust is portrayed as love, where characters are entering into casual relationships with no view to actually marrying (even if they do end up married in the end), or where characters are giving their emotions precedence over God’s Word, you’re training your brain to accept those behaviours, even if you’re telling yourself ‘don’t’.
5. When They Stir Up Desires You (and They) Can’t Fulfill
We enjoy romances because they make us feel all warm and gooey inside. And that’s all good; we were created to enjoy romance. But like anything, there can be too much of a good thing. Particularly if that good thing is only a shadow of the real thing, and you know it—and you’re not in a position to have the real thing.
Let’s be blunt here: I’m not just talking about kisses and romance. Our society pushes sex in our faces everywhere we turn—television, movies, advertisements, and yes, books. Where books are concerned, you don’t even have to go to the romance shelves to find it. No genre is off-limits. It’s hard to guard your heart and mind against that kind of thing at the best of times, and if you’re reading romance novels that stir up those longings and desires, it can make it all the more difficult to resist temptation when it comes along, even if that temptation is ‘only’ in the form of a book or a movie.
I’m not going to say certain groups of people shouldn’t read romance novels. We all have different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, and different life experiences that shape how we respond to things, and no person is immune from temptation, no matter their situation. I’m just saying, be aware of your limitations and your weaknesses, and consider whether reading romance novels is putting a potential stumbling block in your path, particularly in seasons of life where you are might be more vulnerable.