Managing Desires

Just thinking again about how we manage our desires.  It seems to me that we’ve got a number of options.  We can;

1.       Repress them. But this means they come back stronger or seep out in unhealthy ways.  So, at university when I tried to give up caffeine, I ended by cracking in the middle of the night and eating coffee with a spoon.  Or maybe I decide to economise.  I buy Poundland toilet roll but end up splurging on a lime green jumpsuit in the sales.

2.       Express them.  Give in completely.  You want a hot dog?  Have twelve. A cigarette? Smoke forty. That’ll make you feel much better.  Well, temporarily, anyway.  And actually it sets the scene nicely for all number of addictions – it’s just that now you need more of whatever you want to make life work.

3.       Eliminate them. Ha! This doesn’t even work on paper.  You can’t just kill desires.  They’ll creep in the back door by another route.   For a little while, I really thought that anorexia was killing my needs.  But in fact it was just swapping them for another – the need to be thin, to have control.

There are many systems of thought and belief that are built on the goal of wiping out our desires.  Buddhism for example, or stoicism.  But we’re not blank pages.  We’re created to worship – and if our desires aren’t directed to a worthy end, then they will rule us or tear us apart.  Christ alone is worthy of glory – He alone takes and transforms and fulfils our desires.  He not only meets them –  He exceeds them.  Christ will never say to you – ‘you’re too much’ or ‘rein it in’.  He wants more of us, not less.  He’s created us with hungers that we don’t need to repress, express or try to eliminate. That He alone can satisfy.

2 thoughts on “Managing Desires

  1. “We’re created to worship – and if our desires aren’t directed to a worthy end, then they will rule us or tear us apart.”

    This is so, so true.
    And all three of the listed desire management options really do fail in the end as they only manipulate surface issues. Very damaging.

    My greatest struggle right now is in being able to discern the line between a God-honoring urge and a self-centered one. Somewhere along the way, I adopted the idea that anything I like/want/desire must be avoided or squelched because it has the potential to feed my “flesh”. In all honesty, I fear it is a backlash effect of spending years in the repress-express-eliminate cycle.

    Allowing Christ to fill and direct me has provided comfort and peace when I remember to look to Him. Often, the original concern fades away into the distance or is redirected into something positive. It’s not easy, though, to retrain the mental response to turn to Him first.

  2. Hi Heather
    Lovely to hear from you! And this is an important point – the difference between a God-honouring and self-centred urge is often far from obvious. So sometimes the same action (e.g; blogging) can be brilliant or sinful, depending on my motives. But like you, years of the repress-express-eliminate cycle has also blunted my discernment – which makes it even more important that I allow Him to reshape my thinking and my heart. Work in progress…

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