What is escapism?

Escapism is the attempt to ignore negative thoughts or unpleasant realities by distracting oneself from them. Distraction can come in many forms, one large one being fantasy. Oftentimes, escapism manifests through indulgence in material things such as food, sports, drugs, or sex. The word escapism tends to carry a negative connotation with it, assuming that people who seek a break from their standard reality are being irresponsible and avoiding "real life." Escapism can be a harmful thing if the method of escape is inherently harmful (such as using drugs) or if it gets out of hand. However, temporarily "escaping" to enjoy a momentary mental break from an aspect of daily life is not always a bad thing.

There are many concerns that we have to deal with on a daily basis: working, running errands, enduring health issues, taking care of a family, etc. When we take a rest and indulge in some sort of entertainment or recreational activity, such as watching a movie, going on a hike, reading, or playing a game, we are mentally "escaping" from the pressure that comes along with those things. It is healthy to have a balanced rhythm of work and rest; both of these things are encouraged throughout the Bible (Exodus 34:21; Proverbs 12:11; Colossians 3:23; Psalm 127:2). While these things may be examples of healthy ways to relax or escape from reality, they do not necessarily represent the term escapism.

Escapism is a bit more weighty than mere relaxation, because in general, the term is used to reference activities that are participated in for the purpose of removing our thoughts or our minds from the real world. Escapism in this regard can become unhealthy because it may become rooted in a desire to live in fantasy rather than reality. Avoidance is the motive behind classic escapism, because it is a more intentional attempt to forget and avoid truly difficult reality rather than making an effort to change it for the better. If someone lives a life of escapism for too long, it may become nearly impossible for them to face their reality and make a change.

Imagination is a gift from God. Fine arts, such as literature or music, that involve fantasy can help us to access our creativity and may even give us ideas for a better reality. The important thing is that we do not dwell in fantasy and allow it to rule us. This makes it transition from an enjoyable reprieve from the stress of reality to an unhealthy escapist mindset that causes us to deny the reality that truly exists. God encourages us to rest, but He doesn't condone laziness or escapist behavior. An escapist fantasy can be a positive one or a negative one, but dwelling in it will create the same result—a refusal or inability to interact with real life.

Any simple thing could become an escapist crutch if it prevents us from functioning in reality. God wants us to rest, but He also wants us to function and progress within the real world. We can spot signs of excessive escapist behavior if we notice that we are failing to be responsible enough to meet our real-life obligations, if we're consistently wasting time, harming our bodies, or dabbling in some sort of addiction.

Reality can be stressful and we don't always know what needs to be done or how we can make things different. The good news is that when we are children of God, He helps us to make the changes we need. When the difficult realities of our lives cannot be changed, God helps us to endure through them. He is always with us and able to work everything together for our good and His kingdom purposes (Romans 8:28–29). He encourages us to rest and take on His burden: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28–30; Jeremiah 31:25). Through Jesus, we have hope for a better world coming and we have strength to walk out our lives on earth in the present day (Hebrews 11:14–16; Romans 15:13).

Related Truth:

The joy of the Lord — What is it?

What is the key to experiencing joy in the Christian life?

Rest and relaxation – What does the Bible say?

What is Christian Hedonism?

What is a Christian view of hobbies?

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