I think it sort of dawns on you over time that you have aspects of your life that need some revision. If you look up hedonistic in the dictionary, you may find a picture of me. Nobody likes to have a good time more than I do. But, sometimes with your good times you discover excesses that require modification and those modifications aren’t always easy. Excesses can appear in any category of life and you recognize them by their impact on your life. There’s a reason God says all things in moderation. Whatever fun stuff you enjoy that may have become too much fun requires a change in your behavior and more importantly your thinking. Vices are called vices when they replace the real you with some added activity you need in order to function normally. That’s not to say that you must give up all vices, but rather those vices that no longer assist you but instead seek to control you. If you can’t have a good time without adding something else in, you may be getting tripped up. If you have lived any length of time, you know this is true. With life comes an expectation of control, not servitude or slavery, but rather setting limits and sticking to them. In this, you sometimes have to do hard things.
All people love liberty and freedom to do as they please. This is part of the foundation of the American way of life. But, when your personal freedoms begin to impact you and other people negatively, a change will be required. No-one sets out to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. Yet both result from a lack of control. No-one chooses a life of obesity and the litany of related health issues that accompany it, but those consequences remain hidden in the pleasure of consumption. No-one plans on ending up a workaholic, until that satisfaction from always working ruins family and health and the future. It doesn’t really matter which areas of your life have excesses; too much; a lack of control, what matters is being able to discern them before it’s too late, then take steps to modify and choose new pathways. This will require you to do hard things.
On the other end of the spectrum of control is over-control. There are people that deny themselves all pleasures. Some even go as far as to say that they are doing it for God. I can assure you that God who invented pleasure isn’t opposed to pleasure. Yet, He also sees through the deception of pleasure excesses. Emerson aptly stated, “Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it.” Pleasure and pain both have the capacity to deceive you or at minimum influence your decisions. In this, man always seeks to add rules such as taste not, touch not, handle not, yet God was not behind it. Instead He said, “Prove all things and hold fast to the good.” In life we are free to experience our lives in all of life’s manifold variety and stick with those things that are the best. Some things begin well but end poorly. Other things appear to be good but have poison hidden in them. And many, many things are good as long as you enjoy them in moderation. But, lest I put chains on you that are difficult to extricate yourself from, you and you alone must make that choice. It is your life and you are the one that best knows what works for you and what does not. Some people choose not to eat meat and it’s their mouth, not yours. Others abstain from alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you must. Some people require ten hours of sleep and others only six. All of us have free will, unless we surrender it by excess. If there is something you do that is too much for you and begins to hurt you, you may have to do some hard things.
Even the term “hard things” is really a misnomer. Control is no harder than making a firm decision. What becomes hard for us is changing habits that have solidified over time. Habits are great for useful endeavors, but habits spell disaster when connected to our excesses. Worse, habits become invisible to our awareness and we are forced rather to experience some pain or consequence before they come into view. Doing hard things is really more about making hard decisions. It’s about proving to yourself that you can. I think one of the most important aspects of our own mental health is in sticking to the decisions we have made. Nothing like following your plans for needed improvements to boost your self esteem to record levels. Conversely, there’s nothing like saying one thing and doing another to bring you down into the dumps. If it’s going to improve your life immeasurably, do hard things.
Finally, in some cases, certain things or harmful activities have gotten away from your control . Maybe you have traveled too far down a certain path. Perhaps you got caught up in something that was bigger than you are. Certain aspects of life have forces working behind them that exceed your personal ability or strength to overcome them. In these unfortunate, but common cases in human beings, you will need God to help you escape; God, the Higher Power. God who sees all, knows all and is over all is well able to rescue you. All that is required on your part is some humility; some willingness to admit it (whatever it is) has gotten away from you. God has not left you without remedy, nor will He ever. It doesn’t matter how hard your hard thing is, with God nothing shall be impossible.
My friends, we all need help at times; we all get tripped up; we all end up at places we never thought we would end up. There’s no sin in getting tricked. But, when you know what you have to do, you must require of yourself that you do it. Make the change. Modify your behavior. Cut back. Limit yourself. Control yourself. You will be so incredibly happy on the other side. Change doesn’t happen overnight, especially when dealing with well grooved habits of thought, but it will happen and God will make sure you are real blessed along the way. Try it for yourself. Do hard things.
Just some good thoughts…