Playing Pretend

I loved pretending as a child. I love pretending as an adult. Pretending in itself is not bad, but how and why you pretend is what makes it good or bad. God gave us the ability to be creative. God Himself is creative, and gave us that ability to deepen the way He and we can relate to each other. Being able to pretend is part of that creativity. We can come up with scenarios and ideas that help us learn, prepare, invent, and understand better.

Playing games of pretend like writing, drawing, video gaming, and day-dreaming can be healthy ways to exercise your creativity. But if you retreat into a fictional world and begin to despise and grow more uncomfortable with reality, it is not healthy. For example, because I love stories I stretch my creative muscles a lot by coming up with character ideas. In my head I have an entire spy organization, some military personnel, and a few space-faring people. I also love coming up with allegories and metaphors to help myself and others understand abstract concepts. These are good and healthy for exercising creativity, but if I retreat into this inner world and can’t stand being in the real world, my pretending is not healthy. Pretending is fine as long as you are not using it to ignore reality.

Playing pretend with other people like acting, historical reenactment, video gaming, and table-top gaming, can be healthy ways to build relationships and learn new things. But if you don’t prioritize your necessary responsibilities and relationships, and if you don’t recognize that you are all not the characters you play, it is not healthy. For example, I play a regularly scheduled table-top role-playing game with friends. We tell a pretend story together while pretending to be different characters. But we also all know that it’s not real. We’re just playing a creative game together and having a good time. We don’t let it consume our lives, and if we have something more important to do than play at the scheduled time, we don’t play. Pretending is fine as long as it has it’s proper place in your priorities.

Playing pretend in the sense of scenarios in your head can be a healthy way to process and prepare. But if your thoughts are not pure, then it is not healthy. For example, I sometimes have pretend discussions in my head with people who aren’t real as a way to practice how to answer important questions that real people do ask. But if I start to fantasize about absolutely smoking them in an argument without taking heed of God’s love, I’m not doing right. Jesus had something to say about the thoughts you entertain in your head in Matthew 5:27-28. Pretending is fine as long as it is morally good.

Pretending can be good and healthy, and pretending can be bad and unhealthy. Just like many other things in life, the goodness or badness comes from how and why you use it.


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