Letting Go Of Our Willfulness: Self Indulgence

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Have you ever met a person who feels they are entitled to indulge their every whim and passion? Addicts often fit the bill, they are famous for indulging their desires to get high. But they are not alone; we might think of people who have too much money and become extravagant as a result. Of course they rationalize their indulgence as necessary to maintain their image or their social status. But they overlook the reputation they acquire among the disadvantaged. In those circles they are often despised, and so they avoid contact as much as they can.

It’s a funny thing about desires, they always seem to contain an expectation of fulfillment. In other words, any desire that arises also makes us feel entitled to have it satisfied. So we see how indulging ourselves, how giving ourselves permission to get whatever we want, leads to our becoming very self-centered and selfish. Our concern for the well-being of others gradually diminishes and we become preoccupied with our own pleasures.

Now of course we are not as self-indulgent as some people we know. Just a little bonbon every once in a while. Well, all right, it might be a bit more extensive than that, but not much. But don’t forget all the good things we do for other people. Doesn’t everyone deserve a tiny reward now and then? And so we find ourselves making excuses and bending over backwards to avoid being described as self-indulgent.

In the grand scheme of things, small indulgences are not that important. But they can accumulate and lead us to attempt to be self-sufficient. We begin to think we can satisfy all our desires, so why do we need anyone else? Even intimacy becomes a commodity for us to exploit for our own pleasure. So, the problem with self-indulgence is that it detaches and isolates us from other people and from the Source deep within us all. Fortunately the discomfort of this apparent separation will lead us eventually to recognize the awareness that embraces us all.

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.

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