On Appetite and Desire

by Andrew Forrest

Our understanding of appetites is entirely wrong. Here’s what we think:

  • I have an appetite or desire for something;
  • I satisfy that appetite or desire;
  • That appetite or desire goes away.

Or to put it another way, we think:

  • I have an itch;
  • I scratch the itch;
  • No more itch.

Anyone who’s ever had poison ivy knows that that is completely backwards!

Here’s the truth about appetites and desires: the more you feed them, the more they grow. We’ve all experienced this. Take working out, for example: if you haven’t been working out, you don’t want to start working out. But, if you will yourself through the initial inertia, what happens? The more you work out, the more you want to keep working out. Healthy eating is the same way: once you will yourself to start and make it through the first few days, it becomes something you want to do.

Now, apply this to the disciplines of faith, like reading the Bible: the more you read the Bible, the more you want to read the Bible. You don’t bring a desire to it so much as you get the desire from it.

Good appetites grow when fed, but so do bad appetites. How does lust work?

  • Lust whispers, “Feed me, and I’ll stop bothering you–I promise.”
  • For a time, Lust keeps its promise and is quiet. But it’s only for a time….
  • After a while, Lust whispers again, though this time more insistently, “Feed me.”
  • And the cycle continues and accelerates.

This cycle is true for anger and addiction and every other destructive appetite we have. The more we feed it, the stronger does the appetite grow until it becomes almost impossible not to satisfy.

Appetites grow when fed. There are healthy appetites and there are destructive appetites. The key, then, is to feed the healthy appetites and starve the destructive ones. For most of us, the destructive appetites never go totally away, but they do become much weaker over time, and instead of an insistent, sibilant whisper on your shoulder, that appetite, which previously had seemed irresistible in your life, becomes an occasionally recurring thought that you can slap dead as you do a horsefly.

Appetites grow when fed. There are healthy appetites and there are destructive appetites. The key, then, is to feed the healthy appetites and starve the destructive ones. For most of us, the destructive appetites never go totally away, but they do become much weaker over time, and instead of an insistent, sibilant whisper on your shoulder, that appetite, which previously had seemed irresistible in your life, becomes an occasionally recurring thought that you can slap dead as you do a horsefly.

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2 comments

Spencer March 15, 2019 - 9:51 am

Hey Andrew… great post, but I was a kittle distracted by the photo at the top. As a bigger man myself, I feel like the message could have been sent via just the photo of food rather than the inclusion of someone who is overweight. Because fat shaming is a very real and prescient issue in our society, any way one draws a parallel between “lust” and food addiction/genetics is a slippery slope. Thanks for the insight and for allowing me to share my thoughts.

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Andrew Forrest March 17, 2019 - 3:18 pm

Spencer–I can totally see that, and that wasn’t my intent. Thanks for writing. The problem was that all of the other pics I kept getting were more sexual in nature, and so I didn’t have as many good options. (I use a free service for license-free images.) –AF

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