My problem before I encountered the term was that I wanted a blanket solution to all of my impulsive habits, but couldn’t tie them together to do that. But after reflecting on impulsive habits of mine that I’ve been trying to kick for years, I’ve realised that all of them share this common theme.
I stress eat, I gossip, I lust, and I get sad and do it all over again.
Any negative feeling that I experience must be countered with an action that will, in the short term, make things feel better. When I’m overwhelmed or stressed, I eat a lot. And most of that will be things that my dietician would have an aneurism over. I know it’s killing me, but it makes me feel good, and I live in a city where it is never more than a minute’s walking away. It’s a deep problem.
I gossip to satisfy my anger towards people. Do I want to hit them? And lose my job or catch an assault charge? Most definitely not. But I will make sly little digs into their character, talking about what I’ve experienced and heard. By the end of it, this person who probably just had a bad day is Hitler.
I lust and satisfy that by portraying myself in a sexual way. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. And it’s harming the way people see me and I see myself. It hurts my professionalism. But I want to feel sexy and I want to feel wanted, so the cycle continues.
I get sad because nothing seems to be going right. I have to do these things over and over to make up for the long term sense of failure, but it simply isn’t sufficient.
So I prayed about it and opened my bible.
I’ve never been in a city where I can have whatever I want, whenever I want and it has driven me a little bit mad. We’re wired to feel the we’re entitled to our needs and wants being met by our current circumstances, but when the rug is pulled from under our feet, the situation is suffocating. So I started to watch some talks on it, and I prayed.
Then, God indeed answered: the sermon on Sunday at my church discussed this bit of scripture:
Paul is talking here about the defences people brought to their instant gratification in that time. The defences in layman terms are that a) our bodies have urges and that we ought to indulge to satisfy them, and b) Christ brings freedom.
Sure, if our only purpose is to survive, we should satisfy the body’s urges and needs. But for the Christian – for me – life is so much more than that. Paul is stressing how our lives are for the Lord and His glory. We’re being called to honour Him in how we live and how we serve others. I am called to live and not just to get by. I’m called to help others live too. I can’t do that when I’m thinking about fulfilling my impulses to binge eat. I can’t do that when I’m getting sad about not hearing back from a job, because delaying gratification also involves the practice of not expecting to be successful or happy always. After a tough first year as a journalist, I must say I have now learned that lesson.
I think that the freedom defence is also misguided, which is why Paul says “but I will not be dominated by anything” in response. Imagine using your freedom in Christ to trap yourself again in addiction. It just doesn’t make sense. True freedom looks like being free from everything, including yourself.
I am now living my life with suspicion towards anything that will immediately satisfy my human urges.
Not that enjoyment is a bad thing at all. But as grown ups, we can’t be the child who cries and gets what they want. In fact, I don’t even think that’s healthy as a child. We need to get back to the place we were at when we didn’t have anything and couldn’t just meet our needs with ease. For me, that’s facing difficult feelings and facing it with God. I hope you find your way too.