Feeling Good vs. Feeling Fullfilled

I have few vices in my life, as many of them don’t fundamentally appeal to me, but the one that truly weakens my resolve and loosens up my determination is ice cream.  Being a bit of an ice cream snob, I don’t go for the run of the mill stuff, but tend to spring for the more expensive types usually found in pint sizes and sold for more than the larger tubs.  Additionally, the more items added to the ice cream, the better, especially if mixed with peanut butter.  Soft ice cream is even more of a pleasure, as I am not quite as picky about quality, especially in the summer.  In fact, I could probably eat it every day if I could choose to.  However, if I were to do so, I would quickly gain great amounts of weight, lose aspects of my health, and quickly run the risk of a shorter life due to unhealthy eating.  So, ice cream is regulated in my life as a pleasure point, one that I can occasionally indulge in but not make a habit of, as the benefits are only temporary and the pleasure not long-lasting.  From another perspective, another activity I take part in frequently is running.  I run three times a week for a half-hour each time, working my hardest and pushing myself past where I thought possible.  It’s not exactly pleasurable, and pain and soreness come into play afterward, not to mention panting and exhaustion, but the experience is truly gratifying.  There is no pleasurable desire to run this often, but the benefits include better health, increased speed, athleticism, and feeling good about myself.  Thus, this activity is regulated in my life as a source of gratification, a habit where the benefits are not temporary and the gratification is very long lasting.  I may not enjoy running as much as eating ice cream, but I am more fulfilled by the first much more so than the second.  To be clear, pleasures indulge the senses and emotions; gratifications engage the whole person.  The next day, the pleasurable feeling fades and is eventually gone whereas the feeling of gratification lasts well-beyond that period. Worst of all, pleasure beckons us back for more, never satisfying us, whereas gratification calls us to be better people.  Even Proverbs 21.17 warns us of making pleasure a priority: “Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.” And it is very easy to head down that road especially when we decide to overindulge our pleasures instead of healthily spacing them out.  As a society, we tend to pursue pleasure over gratification as the benefits are quicker, the immediate results are more enjoyable, and it is usually easier.  We go to the restaurant with lesser tasting food but larger portions instead of the tastiest food with smaller portions.   We turn on the TV and watch whatever is on instead of pursuing material that challenges our intellect.  We choose to lay around lazily instead of starting up an exercise regimen.  We have become pleasure addicts, where gratification no longer plays a role despite the immense benefits.  I recently had my senior students journal on a daily basis with prompts, and despite the difficulty of the questions and the investment it took to complete, most students said they were very proud of their final product and would come to treasure it years from now.  It is clearly better for us to engage in gratification over pleasure, or at least to balance out the two to our benefit. This week, despite the difficulty of the tasks, find at least three gratifying activities to engage in, and work towards fully completing them.  Gratification isn’t always the easy choice but it is always the one that outlasts beyond and benefits over any pleasure.  Amen.

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