The subtle forms of self-indulgence

WE have to be most careful with the many subtle forms of self-indulgence that take us away from our real home-base who is God.

These subtle forms of self-indulgence usually spring from the many blessings and good things God has given us, but which we misuse or abuse. Instead of glorifying God as we should, we use them to indulge ourselves simply.

These forms of self-indulgence can be so tricky that we may not be very aware that we are falling into them. In fact, we can even think that with them we are doing right, that we are making good use of our time and our talents, that we are simply exercising our freedom, that we are affirming who we are, etc. It’s a very insidious type of self-deception.

Aside from alienating us from God, they alienate us also from others. We may not even realize that we are building an impenetrable wall around ourselves. We become insensitive to our responsibilities toward God. We become deaf and blind to the needs of others.

They usually start as something like fine, flimsy threads, similar to the sticky, silky ones produced by spiders that easily trap little insects, and once trapped these insects are immediately wrapped with them and devoured.

They usually start as something legitimate, but somehow the intention with which we use them is not quite right. Instead of leading us to God and to others, they simply feed our egos and give free rein to our curiosities, love for comfort and bodily pleasure, etc. Before we know it, we would find ourselves wallowing in the mud of self-absorption, unable or at least finding it hard to extricate ourselves from that condition.

Thus, we are now having a high incidence of all forms of addiction—from alcohol to drugs, and even to very legitimate things like our work, our hobbies, sports, games and other forms of recreation. We are now very familiar with workaholism, but there are now many other forms of addiction as in that of pornography, gambling, etc.

These subtle forms of self-indulgence can even enter into the area of religion and spirituality when we get hooked on to some superstitious beliefs and practices, leading us to such anomalies as hypocrisy, self-righteousness, rash judgments, gossiping, spiritual lukewarmness and the like.

We really have to make conscious effort to protect ourselves from these dangers. For this purpose, we need to constantly rectify our intention. Sometimes, it is God who takes the initiative of prompting us what to do, and in this case, we should try our best to be very docile and faithful. At other times, we are the ones who initiate a plan, and we should always refer it first to God before acting on it.

We need to develop a strong ability to say no to certain things that we know can already invite us to self-indulgence. Thus, Christ told us to learn how to deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Lk 9,23) This skill is so indispensable in our life. Everyday, we should be conscious that there is something at least, no matter how legitimate, that we manage to say no to.

We have to develop the fine art of self-discipline and self-control. It may just be matter of putting away the cellphone when we already are in bed, or making the resolution to look at the cellphone only once every hour or every 30 minutes, etc.

We have to be wary of the many conveniences and amenities we enjoy these days, because they can easily spoil us. The powerful gadgets and useful modern technologies would really need not only technical expertise in using them, but more importantly, a strong discerning moral and prudential sense.

In this, we have to help one another by giving good examples of prudence and sobriety, timely and regular reminders and even corrections.