The Pleasure Principle

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While completing a wildly practical Bachelor of Arts degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland I took a few psychology courses as electives. This obviously qualifies me to speak to the masses concerning the psychoanalytic phenomenon known as the pleasure principle.

Of course, several years have passed since my university days so I do confess to having refreshed my memory by visiting dictionary.com. The pleasure principle is there defined as “the idea that psychological processes and actions are governed by the gratification of needs. It is seen as the governing process of the id, whereas the reality principle is the governing process of the ego: see also hedonism.”

Observe the phrase: “see also hedonism,” referring of course to the teaching that pleasure or happiness represents the highest good for humanity. Therefore, we should pursue pleasure at all costs. We should live for it. Spend our money on it. Sacrifice our children on its altars.

The trouble with pleasure is that it’s just so pleasing. It feels good. It’s opposite would seem to be pain or torment or general unpleasantness. Who wants that? Sin is tempting because it promises us this fairly immediate, though temporary, reward of pleasure. Sin initially gratifies something within us. Something dark and sinister perhaps, but nevertheless it seems to satisfy that certain something.

Hebrews 11:25 tells us that Moses choose to suffer mistreatment with God’s people rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. So let’s say two roads were before him. He had to choose which one to travel. One promised pleasure. The other was marked with suffering. Why on God’s green earth would he chose the later road?

Let me offer two good reasons? Firstly, he knew the pleasures of sin were fleeting. They would quickly vanish into thin air, like money often does from my bank accounts. Devastating consequences would follow Moses choice to sin, as they inevitably do.

Secondly, Moses knew that the suffering was fleeting too. Just as the pleasure wouldn’t last, neither would the suffering. Right choices always get rewarded, even if the immediate result is suffering. Bad choices will always get punished, even if the immediate result is pleasure. Moses understood this. Hebrews 11:26 tells us that Moses, “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Did you catch that? Moses knew his initial suffering wasn’t the full story. Eventually, he would be rewarded for his choice to serve God. It’s too bad more people didn’t grasp this truth today.

Now when I say this about reward and suffering I’m not really factoring in God’s grace and mercy. God can and often does turn this entire process upside down by forgiving people and giving them what they don’t deserve (grace) and withholding from them what they do deserve (mercy). We don’t deserve heaven but we get it, that’s grace. We deserve hell but we don’t get it, that’s mercy. We all need the grace and mercy of God, which is why I pray for it every day. You might want to consider doing the same.

Life consists of a myriad of choices. We make choices about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the education we obtain, the person we marry. But the most right choice we can ever make is the choice to believe in Jesus Christ. Not just to believe some things about Him but to believe everything the bible says about Him, from Genesis to Revelation.

According to Jesus Himself the simple choice to believe in Him carries the greatest reward of all. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47) Can it really be that simple? Believe in Jesus and have everlasting life? Well, try it and see what happens. Read a little bit about Him every day. Find out everything you can about Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Trust Him. I think you’ll find that the rewards of seeking Him are truly out of this world.

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