What I’ve Learned From Watching Survivor

Last night, Survivor held its finales and crowned the winner of its 35th season. I’m not sure that I would yet identify myself as a fan, but after years of resisting, I have finally begun watching Survivor. I only started watching it when an acquaintance of mine was chosen to be part of the show a few seasons back. I’ve never been a fan of ‘reality’ television, and truthfully, I’m still not. However, Survivor offers something unique that a person like me finds intriguing.

Because of the unique circumstances of the show, it’s an opportunity to see people at their best and their worst and thus it becomes a fascinating study of people. As a result of that fascination, I’ve now watched a mixture of the seasons spanning beginning to end, including some with the most unique twists and divisions. While I am not sure that the show qualifies as qualitative research, it is a unique opportunity to analyze people and that’s what I find enjoyable. The result is not necessarily new insights into the behavior of people, but in fact, confirms some points that we already know from Scripture.

The Disposition of Sin
Frankly, I am tired of hearing everyone defend their behavior with the phrase, “That’s not who I am in real life, but this is a game.” This is nothing less than a copout to justify one’s behavior. The intensity of these circumstances doesn’t develop character, it reveals it (at least in the moment). Certainly after a time of reflection and recuperation may instill some character changes in the participants, those do not happen overnight. Character development is influenced by what we endure and face in our life, but it is a process that requires the ingredient of time for it to be fully realized. Therefore, the reality is, every single one of the participants would not act the way they are if they did not already have some sort of predisposition to it, and thus their character is merely being revealed.

That character trait being revealed is merely the sin nature that is prevalent in every person. We learn from Scripture that every person has a sin nature that is only broken free only by the work of Christ (Romans 3:23, 5:8, and 5:12). While everyone seems surprised at the behavior of people on the show, the revelation is nothing new, but instead confirms James’ words that the sin of selfishness and greed will cause disagreement and strife amongst people (James 4:1-3). Interestingly, one of the things to recognize is that extreme circumstances will magnify a person’s sin, which is something that we see from those on Survivor.

The Propagation of Sin
There are many who enter the show committed to playing a game full of integrity, but rarely are those promises fulfilled. The reason for that is quite simple. Apart from God’s work, sin will breed sin.

Even if all players are committed to maintaining a game of truth with the exception one, the ability to maintain that integrity becomes very difficult. That deceiver and deception cause discord within the game that weakens the resolve to maintain integrity. However, it can go further in that it almost creates a necessity for others to also engage in the same type of deceptive gameplay or forfeit his or her position within the game of Survivor.

If all players maintained the same level of play, then a true game of authenticity and principles could be maintained. However, the disposition of sin guarantees the impossibility of that. Therefore, what we see is that sin propagates sin.

The Repercussion of Sin
Finally, the study of Survivor’s players reveals the severity of sin by showing us its repercussions. Sin never merely impacts only the sinner. The impact carries far and wide and the show of Survivor is a clear demonstration of that. Nearly every season ends with apologies being made, friendships that could have been never being consummated, and the destruction of a confidence in people’s intentions.

When considering the consequences of sin, rarely does one consider that his or her actions impact others. Thus, the harsh reality that comes forth from watching Survivor is just how much impact that sin carries. This is a profound lesson that should be deeply entrenched in our minds. Sin does not merely have consequences in our own lives, but it carries its weight into the lives of those around us as well.

For me, Survivor has become a show of fascination because it’s an opportunity to study people. However, it’s not a study that reveals anything new but instead only confirms the right orientation of a biblical worldview.

Photo “Clear blue lagoon beach, Chichijima” courtesy of user Ippei & Janine Naoi and Flickr.