Stewardship and Instant Gratification
Sabbath School Lesson 2018 Quarter 1 Lesson 11 Monday
The lesson talks about Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of food. It says, “Controlled by his emotions and feelings, he allowed the pressure of the moment to overpower reasoning, and he traded his birthright for some instant gratification.”
This sentence points out a fundamental problem in decision-making, specifically: feelings or emotions overruling our good judgment in the action of choosing, and we choose what feels good now regardless of its actually healthiness.
James tells us that our feelings or desires lead us into temptation.
If you think back on the 3 decisions you regret the most in life, the three choices you made that if you could go back and redo them you would choose differently—how many of those bad choices came from careful consideration and choosing to following what reason said was best and how many came from following strong emotions?
Many people struggle with decision-making, and there are two major ditches they fall into:
- Pleasure seeking, making a choice that seeks to feel good right now regardless of consequence
- Pain avoidance, making a choice that will hurt least right now, regardless of consequence
Are either of these methods healthy?
What is the problem with making decisions like this?
Does this mean we can never make purposeful decisions that are intended to be pleasurable or avoid pain?
No, it doesn’t mean that, it means that we don’t let the pleasure/pain motivation overrule judgment. That we choose what is healthiest, regardless of the pleasure or pain involved. But when it is healthy, reasonable, appropriate to make choices that are pleasurable, or avoids pain then it is right to do so, not simply because of how it feels, but because it is actually healthy.
Why is it hard sometimes to delay gratification, to say no to a desire?
Does fear ever play a role? Do we get afraid that if don’t act now we might miss out on a deal, on getting that which we desire?
How do we combat this fear?
With love and trust—do you trust God with your future, with knowing what is best, with how things will turn out, with protecting you from unforeseen consequences? Do you trust God that if what is desired is not received He has something even better in store?
To Sabbath School Quarterly Additional Commentary Team,
I would like to share the following comments for Monday’s lesson as although it had some good points, it’s last sentence was again a one-size fits all approach. Feel free to use any of the info (or not) depending if it is relevant to the approach you were going to take.
Today’s lesson does well to raise the issue and unfortunate implications of living according to instant gratification.
And it correctly identifies the role of the subconscious in being the key driver of this phenomenon. It is worth pointing out that the processing speed of the subconscious is estimated to be up to 50 times faster than that of the conscious (the part of your brain where you ‘reason’). Consequently, your conscious is typically playing ‘catch-up’ in a temptation situation.
This is why people frequently find themselves going down the same old path in giving into temptation before they realise they are that far down the path. This is not an excuse, just an informed explanation that needs to be taken into account to (a) help understand the phenomenon and (b) develop more effective counter-measures specific to the needs of the individual.
And the lesson is correct when it hilights that delayed gratification is a learned capacity (a bigger concept that a skill). But here is what is also important to be aware of: this capacity is associated with the type of environment that you grew up within. Human development is referred to as being experience-dependent. This means that if you grow up in an ‘enriched’ environment that was emotionally stable and secure, you will have available the necessary ‘resources’ to develop a healthy and mature ‘character’.
On the other hand, if you grew up within an emotionally volatile and unpredictable/unstable environment, your mind was fully absorbed just by trying to survive and therefore didn’t have the capacity to be growing healthy abilities at that time. It is not too strong to say that such an environment is ‘toxic’ to healthy growth and development. Some people do appear to be an exception to this, but this finding holds up time and time again and has a huge amount of research to support its existence (If you are interested, look into the field of ’emotion regulation development’).
So, why do I mention this? If you grew up within an emotionally volatile or unsettled/unpredictable environment, you may well find that the exercise of delayed gratification seems more difficult for you than perhaps the next person who was blessed to have grown up in a stable environment. That is because it is – you are having to play ‘catch-up’ in the development of this capacity. So, take heart and keep plugging along without comparing yourself to others (and getting discouraged). And if someone is putting you down, hopefully knowing that not everyone is in the same boat might help you take courage to keep on keeping on.
And if you happen to have grown up in a stable environment, hopefully this will help inform your compassion for those who didn’t and who are having a harder time with this issue.
Yes, God helps us all grow and heal. But he works within reality and the reality is that some are unfortunately more disadvantaged than others. Hence, there is need of informed compassion.