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.
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