I am not sure we have given this much thought, but every pleasure that we experience has a beginning and an end. Once a pleasure has run its course, a sense of despondency can creep into your soul.
In his book, The Logic of God, Ravi Zacharius says, “. . . disappointment in pleasure gives rise to emptiness, not just for a moment but for life.” He believed a life driven by pleasure can lead to a sense of purposelessness, where there is no reason for life. The reason is because pleasure brings no lasting fulfillment.
In our culture today, most people’s approach to finding happiness is through the path of pleasure. There is a simple reason for this, we believe that happiness is a feeling. It is something I feel, and of course what produces good feelings? Pleasure.
This is why I believe so many have elevated the pursuit of pleasure to the point of it being the driving force in their lives. It becomes the basic reason for living.
During this time of isolation and closures we have been deprived of many of the pleasures we are accustomed to—dining out, shopping, travelling, etc. For many, this has been a time of introspection and has given us the opportunity to take a closer look at our lives and how we are living.
I have been working with men at The Center for Executive Leadership for almost 20 years. I have seen a lot. I think we have probably seen every problem a man might have. I have concluded that when pleasure becomes the source of our happiness, we begin to see certain destructive tendencies creep into our lives; three in particular that I would like to consider.
First, pleasure drives people easily to a lack of discipline and self-restraint. What ends up happening is anything that is rigorous on the front end does not produce good feelings. Over time it results in a laziness in people’s lives.
A second tendency is that we lose the willingness to confront painful issues and problems. Let’s face it, confronting problems can be quite uncomfortable. I think we easily believe that if we put aside our problems, maybe they will go away. But they never do. In fact, they generally grow and compound. Jordan Peterson said in his best-selling book, 12 Rules for Life, that if we don’t confront our problems, the end result is chaos and unhappiness. I have found that the healthiest people in life are those who run towards their problems and not away from them.
A third destructive tendency is a self-centeredness where we become completely self-absorbed. We believe our happiness becomes more important than anyone or anything else.
Of course finally, if a person’s indulgence in pleasure goes unchecked, there is the problem of addiction. When this happens, the pleasure gains a power over your life that it was never meant to have.
I often share these thoughts with men and then confront them with these questions:
What do you think happens when a person is pursuing happiness through the pleasures of life, and:
They have little self-discipline in their lives?
They do not confront their problems?
They are totally self-absorbed?
It strikes me that this is a recipe for misery and not happiness. I believe this explains why so many people are unhappy today. Their strategy to find happiness is not working and they don’t know why nor do they know what to do about it. Maybe this is true in your life today?
I want to leave you with some insightful words that I read many years ago by a noted therapist. It makes for a good introduction into next week’s blog:
“The great mistake of modern man is to confuse pleasurable experience (and feeling good) with happiness. After 20 years of counseling, I can tell you that the main thrust of too many lives is an over-emphasis on feeling good than living wisely. In the process, a life of character is often abandoned for the pursuit of self-gratification. The result is a life full of thrills and good feelings, but eventually it is accompanied by a host of destructive consequences. Yet people will continue to make that trade-off and then will complain bitterly about the price they have to pay.”
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.