Healthy Hedonism

If I were to go to an addictions support group, my introduction would probably go a bit like this:

Hi, my name is Stacy, and I’m a pleasure-seeker.

Pleasure seeking. That’s not an addiction, right? Sounds like a wonderful past time. Brings to mind pictures of the beauty of the natural world, the joy of a circle of close friends, the warmth of a crackling fire, the respite of a good book, the passion of physical intimacy. While pleasure seeking may conjure up different images for each of us, pleasure is surely something we all desire and something that motivates us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do.

However, wonderful as it sounds, pleasure seeking can turn very dark, very fast. How many pedophiles, rapists, drug addicts, and alcoholics have been created as a result of a desire for pleasure? How many people have squandered their fortunes in a pursuit of pleasure?

The following article gives a prime example of pleasure-seeking gone too far, and what it has done to transform culture. The article highlights the horrific issue of rape that pervades our world, as well as the way the pursuit of pleasure leads people to put themselves in situations allowing rape. This absolutely does not excuse rape, but does contribute to occurrences of rape, and we now have what is called ‘rape culture,’ a culture in which rape is no longer surprising, in which victims are held responsible, in which perpetrators can reasonably expect to get away.

Pleasure seeking gone wrong has injured our world and pervaded our culture. While most pleasure seeking doesn’t result in rape, all of us have bought something we shouldn’t have, eaten more than we should have, or done something we regretted in the name of pleasure. We feel we are ruling our pleasures, but too easily they come to rule us.

Is there a way to be a healthy hedonist? And has anyone found a happiness that is truly sustainable?

These are questions that author Paul Tripp addresses in his book “Sex and Money.”

Speaking of the pleasures of sex and money, Tripp says “Both offer you a sense of well-being while having no capacity whatsoever to satisfy your heart… Both are beautiful in themselves but have become distorted and dangerous by means of the fall.”

The answer is not in pleasure-abstinence. Surely pleasure is a good and wonderful thing when it is not corrupted. However, all of our lives have been corrupted by the fall of man, that fateful day in the garden when the first man did the forbidden and brought a curse upon his lineage.

However, as the first man corrupted the world, the God-man is renewing and sanctifying the world. Pleasures sought in right relation to Christ can be the most gratifying, beautiful, and God-honoring experiences in our lives. Tripp says, “The gospel graces us with everything we need to celebrate and participate in [these] areas in a way that honors God and fully enjoys the good things he’s given us to enjoy.”

Pleasure is not bad; it is very very good. We just must seek it in the right way, and in the right place.

As a business student, I am learning that appealing to pleasure is an incredible tool in marketing. A question to consider is, how can we utilize the motivation of pleasure in a way that glorifies God, both in our personal lives and in our businesses?

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