Pause. Consider. Act.
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | September 2018 (edited November 29, 2021)
Internal pushes erupt into thought. Our minds recoil at the unwanted intrusion of desire. Sinful desires are neither good nor bad; how we react to the desire, well, that may be a problem.
We can’t aimlessly wander and arrive at a desired destination. Achieving intentions requires correct actions accomplished through planning, sacrifice and discipline. Often we must contend with impulsive tugs--sinful desires—that are incompatible with our dreams.
Desires and Goals
The attractive advice to "do what you feel" seems woefully off. Feelings don't always offer divine guidance. Feelings often can be categorized as sinful desires, the longings of the flesh to serve selfish momentary pleasures. Our personal goals often demand deferring submission to sinful desires.
Sinful desires are the physical longings that when acted upon impede goal attainment. A term often used to describe desires to violate religious laws (commandments).
Feelings are Essential
Feelings are an intricate part of identity, teaching preferences, and reminding of our humanity. Sometimes, impulses if the bubbling of wisdom, surfacing from implicit memories, subtly pushing us away from harm. The impulses, however, don't always bring wisdom. Desires are not all good nor all bad—they're just impulses, flowing from the complexity of a living system.
Pleasure and displeasure originate from a complex mixture of cultural concepts, biological givens, and personal experiences. Our response to desires can be an intelligent use of feelings or a helpless resignation. Healthy integration of feelings into action displays emotional maturity.
Sometimes, impulses if the bubbling of wisdom, surfacing from implicit memories, subtly pushing us away from harm.
Desires: An Imperfect Guide
We want a concrete guidance system. It would certainly make life easier. We could shut off our cognitive thoughts, be impulsive, and succeed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Our feelings, whether pleasant or unpleasant, are ignited from incomplete and misinterpreted information, making errant predictions of meaning. So, we yell at a partner we fear will leave. We quit the security of a job for a 'promising' position at a failing start-up, and we eat a quart of ice cream to soothe our anxiety.
See Emotional Guidance System for more on this topic
Self Deception and Justification
Some desires are undeniably sinful—not just misguided. Our minds masterfully justify these as well. No ease feat to destroy our lives and find a justifying explanation; but our minds are up for the task, and routinely succeed.
See Self Deception for more on this topic
It’s not that intellectual cognitions are the golden ticket. The musings of thought are highly susceptible to feeling—the underlying pushes we just discredited. Our words, thoughts and arguments often blindly jump on the train of deception, decrying any opposing facts that suggest deeper investigation. We excuse decrepit lies from the political candidate we support but gasp in horror when an opposing candidate commits a comparable sin.
Pause when Feeling Sinful Desires
Wisdom flows from a slight pause. A pause long enough to skeptically evaluate internal and external reasons behind the desire, giving meaning to sinful desire rather than an unbreakable command to be followed. Desires, especially the sinful type, commandeer our attention. A pause allows time to refocus. By re-attuning to long-term intentions, and considering consequences of chasing sinful desires, we can make constructive choices—most of the time.
See A Buffer for Wise Decision Making for more on this topic
Go ahead and Indulge, Sometimes.
We can consider sinful desires for their impact without immediate dismissal. A bowl of ice cream, for example, will impact but not destroy a diet. But unchecked and unmediated, a nightly bowl of chocolate cookie dough crunch ice cream will destroy our weight loss plans.
When satisfying sinful desires is automatic and without thought, we sacrifice critical self-determined action necessary for goal attainment. We must routinely delay gratification for success. Many sinful desires proceed pivotal decisions. Our adaptive response to indulge will hinder greater life achievements.
See Delay of Gratification for more on this topic
Sinful Desires Are Not Sins
Let me repeat that. "Sinful desires are not sins." Gasp. Desires arise in all of us. An environmental cue, a random thought, a happenstantial encounter will trigger biological movements inside. These are not sins. They don't impact goals. They don't violate religious or marital commitments.
Perhaps, our harsh judgement of the desire as sinful creates many of the associated problems:
Stop Harsh Judgement of Sinful Desire
Accept the sinful desire for what it is—an impulse. Instead of judging the desire as bad or good, focus on an appropriate response. Impulses unmitigated create chaos. Our lives rock back and forth without direction, burning energy chasing unsupportable dreams and destroying promising futures. After weighing consequences, some satisfying of desire adds richness to our bland lives. In many cases, we can indulge without destroying.
Satisfying some sinful desires is pleasurable. With careful assessment, we can avoid the sinful desires that destroy. A few moments of mindful attention, a slight pause, checking consequences of action against long-term goals, may save a lifetime of regret.
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