The Danger of an Unbalanced Reading Diet
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All of us are aware of the dangers of an unbalanced diet. Too many cookies and ice cream and our jeans get too snug. Too many carrots and we might look a little orange around the edges. Not that I know about the “orange around the edges” personally, but I did see a lady whose skin was orange from such a thing. The jeans, however…maybe!
While we all think about our food diet in one way or another, it’s not often that we give much thought to our reading diet; the books that we habitually consume with our minds and process through our actions and words. Just as an unbalanced physical diet can be dangerous, so can an unbalanced reading diet.
Some of the dangers of an unbalanced reading diet are:
- Unrealistic expectations of people in our life
- False beliefs
- Too legalistic or too lenient in our opinions
- Focused on ourselves rather than on God’s will for us
- Self-centered rather than putting the needs of others first
- Consumed with issues that are not as important as we make them be
- Becoming a follower of a particular person or movement rather than of Jesus Christ
Too many romance novels lead to unrealistic expectations of our husband, fiancee, or boyfriend. Too much history can leave us focused on the past rather than living in the moment where God has placed us. Too much self-help can leave us weak and focused on our problems rather than on who God is and the grace He extends to us. Too much of anything is bad because whatever we put into ourselves — whether it be food or words — changes us. The food we eat either strengthens us or weakens us. The words we consume either strengthen us or weaken us. We know this when we see the outwards signs as previously mentioned. When it comes to our reading, we see the outward signs in our thoughts which then produce our actions.
Matthew 12:34 says: “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Matthew 15:18 seconds this: “But what comes out of the mouth, proceeds from the heart, and this defiles the heart.”
What we read creates our thoughts. What we think creates our words and actions. If our reading diet consists mostly of romance, then we will find ourselves edgy and snappy with our husband when he doesn’t treat us how we think he should, rather than our thoughts filled with grace because of what Jesus has done for us. If we read mostly historical books, we will be filled with knowledge, but not the knowledge that brings grace and love to our family and friends. If we read primarily heath and nutrition books, we could end up with a super healthy family physically speaking, but one that lacks spiritually.
Romans 12:1-2 says:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
God’s Word says that we change by “renewing our minds”. Every time we put something in our minds, whether it be through reading, conversations, or listening, we are conforming our our thoughts to a pattern of some sort or another. Instead of reading whatever suits our current whim, let’s be thoughtful, careful, and balanced in what we allow our minds to consume. It’s not wrong to read fiction, or historical books, or health, or Christian living, to name a few, when it’s in balance. That balance may look different in each of our lives and that’s between each of us and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Instead of becoming judgmental toward one another we can encourage one another on our journey to a balanced reading diet.
How to Develop a More Balanced Reading Diet:
Make a plan.
Not one that you become legalistic about, but a plan that helps you read a broad diet of books. (You can download my Reading Priorities Plan workbook for free on my blog.)
Keep a list.
Keep a list either in a journal, on Evernote, or on Goodreads so you can see if you are consuming too much of one thing or another.
Ask for help.
I am finding the topic of reading balance coming up in conversations more and more frequently. Reach out and ask a friend to help you develop a reading plan for the year and then keep each other accountable.
Join a book club.
Sometimes it’s hard to step out and read a new genre. Doing it in a group will both help and encourage you!
Read a book about balanced reading!
Take the time to read Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke to help you explore this topic more.
My Reading Plan
In 2011, I read Reinke’s book about prioritizing your reading and it helped me develop my own Reading Priority plan. Since I like a good theme to help me retain thoughts and information better, I tweaked his original list with a house-building theme. Here is my version along with what I plan to read this year:
- Foundational Reading (Scripture & Devotional)
- New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp
- Structural Reading (My Identity In Christ)
- Jesus = Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
- Housewife Theologian by Aimee Byrd
- Mechanical Reading (Spiritual Understanding)
- Scripture and Counseling by Bob Kellemen
- Gospel Centered Counseling by Bob Kellemen
- Interior Reading (Personal Growth)
- You Can Pray by Tim Chester
- Creative Family Prayer Times by Mike & Amy Nappa
- Exterior Reading (Skill Sharpening & Developing)
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
- How To Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur
- Finishing Reading (Wholesome Enjoyment)
- Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers
- Her Daughter’s Dream by Francine Rivers
While I’m sure there will be more books that end up on this year’s reading list, this plan helps me have a better chance at a more balanced reading diet. It is not about following a certain plan or special formula; it is about using whatever tool works best for you in order to find balance for what your mind is consuming. Out of those books that you are putting into your mind will flow all your thoughts, words, and actions.
Photo Credit: Natasha Metzler
I remember when I was 11 and 12, I read a HUGE amount of fiction that really made me a not so very happy person. I was only happy while reading. Now I have learned to read more broadly. I enjoy reading challenging books that make me run for the dictionary[like Jane Austen or Bronte], as well as simple novels like the Love Inspired books, and autobiographies. Janette Oke has been a favorite, but I can’t read a whole bunch in a row. Getting caught up in one author’s world is not so very healthy. I would have to say that I’ve always been inclined towards historical romance, but the most recent book that took me out of my comfort zone was a quilting circle series that my Grandma gave me. I procrastinated, until I finally did read it, and it was actually pretty good. Sometimes you have to step out of that familiar groove and try a new thing to keep your balance. So glad you wrote this post! Thanks!
Great reminders, Mandy. Thank you!
Thanks for this, Mandy! I’ve enjoyed branching out over the last year or so and reading more in genres I used to think weren’t for me–and a lot more nonfiction than I read at one time. It’s neat to see how God grows my heart differently through different books. 🙂
I’d love to hear what your favorite book has been from reading other genres! Care to share some of your most enjoyed reads from of late?
Thanks for asking, Mandy! For instance, I’m enjoying Captivating right now, and I used to not read nonfiction a whole lot. And there’s a a history book by my bed I’m going to dig into here soon once I’ve finished a review-book. Pistols and Petticoats I think is the name of it, about the Revolutionary War. 🙂
This was so good! Full of wonderful, practical advice. What’s balanced for us may not be balanced for other people, too. That’s the uniqueness of people. We all have our strengths in certain areas and our weaknesses in certain areas. Thanks for encouraging us to find our own happy mediums.
So very true, Jessiqua! So glad you enjoyed this post.
Love this! So, so true, Mandy. Thank you for your encouragement and godly perspective!
Thanks for your gracious words as always, Natasha!