I am privileged to have recently been exposed to a video on Facebook. My wife prompted me to read it. I used to have an account there but cancelled it (my INTJ personality (thanks to Luke for encouraging me to take the test again and re-discover some important stuff) finds it more of a burden to keep up with all that contact – my restorative times come when I am alone) so I viewed it on her space and am not sure how to link to it here, but you viewing it is not all that important. It is the video of an acquaintance of ours describing his pathway from what he terms “addiction” to pornography and explicit and promiscuous homosexual behavior all while he attended religious prep-schools, attended a religious university, married a Christian wife, etc to freedom from that destruction and wholesomeness. It got me thinking about a topic that I have considered prior, and even touched on a bit in a previous post. Additionally, one of the comments on my friend Jason’s blog dropped a bit of fuel on this for me too. That comment was about the idea that people’s actions are manifestations of their beliefs, and while I can see that in there, but I think it is largely untrue. Let me explain.
I have had this idea that much of the stuff with which we destroy ourselves involves our lack of control over that for which we are hungry. I don’t mean only hungry in the sense of our desire for food. Certainly, consuming too much food is perhaps the most visible major example of this self-destruction that is rampant in our lives and in our culture, and one I might add (and this plants the seed for an entire additional post perhaps) that the church and its focus on avoiding sin seems to completely dismiss. But to me when I look at the world and its evils more closely, much of the evil is there due to humanity over-satisfying that for which it hungers (orexis being the Latin for appetite). There is the drive to quench the thirst for money, for power, for sex, for happiness, for peace, for fun, for food, for relationship, for praise, for acceptance, for dominance, for status, for rightness, for proof, etc. The list is really endless and many of these things on the list may be intimately interlocked. We all have appetites. And we all satisfy them. But why do we go beyond satisfaction? Why do we destroy ourselves.
I hesitate to bring up Dr. Phil McGraw because he is somewhat of a pop-culture phenom, and I have made a bit of fun of him myself at times, but I read one of his books years ago, and he said at least one thing that I thought was really good and that has stuck with me. I come back to it time to time, and it is in my mind as I consider this topic and more specifically why we destroy ourselves. He said that people do what works. So I think people engage in destructive behavior because in some way, ways of which we may not even be fully aware, it works for them. It may be a very shallow or surface reason such as feeling good or it may be tied to something much deeper. But I do believe it to be true. People do what works. And it is a curious thing that doing what works seems to be stronger than knowing that we are destroying ourselves, or stronger than our religious beliefs, or stronger than our relationships, or stronger than our desire to not destroy ourselves. Again, why? Why do we destroy ourselves with our hungers.
I think it can only be because we are all broken and in pain and scarred in some way, and the things for which we are hungry offer a quik fix. They offer to cover up or distract us from our pain or brokenness. We experience immediate relief. And we oh so much want relief. So we take it. Peace. But it wears off. So we take more. Peace. But it wears off. So we take more. And the cycle goes on and on. And destruction comes along with it. The cycle is destructive. But all too soon we are too trapped to get out. We are addicted. As my friend appropriately stated, he was addicted. He took relief and got it. But it wore off so he took more and again got it. This is the behavior of an addict. And an addict begins at some point to not be able to function without relief from the pain. And the cycle creates more pain so you seek more relief. And it slowly eats you up. It destroys you.
I also hesitate to bring up Dr. Drew Pinsky for the same reasons as Dr. Phil. He is a pop-culture figure, but I also think that he too has some good things to contribute. Maybe you do or maybe you don’t know about his VH1 show, Celebrity Rehab. Whether or not you like it is not my concern. I would encourage you to do something different, keep an open mind, and watch it sometime because these people play out exactly what I have described above. And you rarely get the opportunity to see this happen in front of your eyes in our culture where looking like you have it all together is considered virtuous. In some way they are all broken. Every single one of them had something happen to them in their life that was significantly traumatic for them. Something that deeply changed them. Something that caused them to seek medicine (as my good friend Dr. Paul would say). Their fame is irrelevant. It just added fuel to the flame because quick sources of relief (drugs, alcohol, co-dependent friends, enablers, sex, money, food, surgery-and people to give it to them) were more readily available, but don’t for a second think that we, the unfamous, are not like them. Our hurts and hungers are the same and lead us to the same places in the end. Destruction.
So contrary to what the commentor on Jason’s blog said, I think our actions are probably correlated more closley with where we are broken than with what we believe. In fact, I’ll go a bit further and say that where you find you have an appetite that is hard to control, it is at that place that you have something broken, something painful, from which you are seeking relief. Those troublesome appetites are a beacon for where you need to be looking to uncover your deepest scars. And I’ll bet that most of those scars are somehow connected to a broken relationship in some way. Which is why just having more faith in God or being a better Christian or being a better Jew or being a better Muslim or trying harder will never work. It doesn’t fix the problem. It doesn’t fix the relationship. And in fact, it may do more to cover the problem. It just adds another layer of crap because when God doesn’t “deliver you” you are left more angry and confused than you were before. Don’t get me wrong. I deeply believe that God will help us with our scars and in fact a whole relationship with God is part of the solution. But, it is a principle in this world, this universe, this life that God created, that you have to struggle to gain ground. Getting it for free brings about more destruction. And this is no different here. Without the struggle of being brutally honest with yourself and owning your troublesome appetites and doing the work, you will not get out of jail. God will do his part, but you have to do yours.
I challenge you to examine your troublesome orexis. I will commit to it with you in my own life. Let’s be a community that heals. Look for the problems that exist underneath your orexis. Be willing to be savagely honest with yourself about them. There is a reason that people often hit “rock bottom” before they start to heal, before they start to get better, before they start to get those appetites controlled. It is there that it begins to no longer work for them. But maybe, if we know where to look, we can find the problems, the scars, so we don’t have to hit the bottom. Maybe we can cut the destruction short by looking underneath our orexis.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, or whatever saying you most prefer imagine that it is right here ______________________.