I believe in chocolate milkshakes.
My friend believes in french fries. Extra large portions of them.
My Amish neighbors, pictured above, believe in role playing the 1800s when it’s 4°F out.
Still other people believe in overworking, while some, underworking.
But I have a strange allergy to dairy. So while I believe in chocolate milkshakes, they don’t believe in me. My french fry loving friend has enough french fries stored in his tissue to live off them for the next six months; he’ll be the first to tell you so. My friends that overwork never see their kids, and those that underwork can’t provide for them. And my Amish neighbors spend a lot of time getting from point A to point B with icicles on their beards.
The point is, every desire we have has a cost, and when desires become beliefs, those costs become more extravagant.
Desires themselves are normally benign. I don’t view wanting chocolate milkshakes or french fries as inherently wrong, nor are a good work ethic or finding time to relax. Sure, riding around in a black box pulled by a horse is kinda weird, but once in a while, I’d like a ride.
Belief, however, is far more prejudice.
When we believe in something inferior, excuses against superior reasoning are suddenly far easier to come by. We embrace the abstract at the expense of the obvious. We’ll ignore the fact that we’re overeating, overtired or overestimating, and carry on conducting ourselves in ways which right-minded observers scratch their heads at. And they should. Without the same level of belief, a bystander only sees an overindulgent desire.
Of course, all this is conditional on what, exactly, we believe in. If the desire is a superior one, it has a way of producing the best in us. Everything around us seems to flourish—to benefit. And instead of ignoring important things, we’ll tend to ignore the frivolous in favor of the paramount. Desires that are superior have wide-reaching ramifications when they’re believed in. We know that a belief is superior because its fruits are likewise.
Chocolate milkshakes, for example, when believed in, only succeed in making me happy for a little while—until the sinus infection and stomach cramps set in. Likewise, french fries, overworking and or horse buggies make for a more interesting and colorful human experience—but only to a point.
Here are a few tips on making sure that only your best desires actually become beliefs, and your poorest ones don’t:
Examine The Fruit
If you’re sick and tired of how little you produce, how much money you spend, how little rest you get, how few friends you have, or how poorly you actually know your family, those are probably very good indicators that the desires you’re entertaining are not life-giving ones. Your fruit should be your wake-up call that your roots are drinking from the wrong soil. Uprooting old patterns and behaviors can be a challenge, but it’s the only way to see different fruit growing at the end of those branches. Start by observing what proverbial fields other successful trees are spending their time in, and make moves in the same direction. Chances are, the people who’s desires and beliefs you want to emulate are reading instead of watching, listening instead of talking, and serving instead of indulging.
Recognizing you have some bad desires is not bad itself—it’s actually quite positive—but failing to move when you now know you’d better, that is, in fact, quite bad.
Make Yourself Accountable
Since behavioral nearsightedness is a common human condition, it only makes sense to surround yourself with more eyes. Having friends around you whose lives you admire provides you with a superior vantage point, and, frankly, it’s not one you can afford to be without. Give them permissions to speak into your life, ask them for input regularly, and don’t get mad at them when the actually give you input you don’t like. Your future self will thank you.
Hold To Your Standards
As I said before, desires aren’t inherently wrong, at least in their most elemental form. I desire food, companionship, sex, warmth, entertainment. But the moment any of those (and more) take my time and attention away from other priorities, I’ve effectively created an object of belief—also known as an idol. This is why standards are important. Put your desires up against your standards and see how they compare. When my desires are exceeding my standards in frequency or magnitude, I’ve got an idol. Of course, having standards assumes you’ve subscribed to some. I’d recommend the mandates of Jesus Christ, if you’re looking. His message to a large crowd gathered on Mt. Eremos in Israel is a pretty good place to start.
Love, for example, or graciousness, even forgiveness—these desires can be believed in without restraint. The Apostle Paul actually wrote that there are no laws against such desires. In other words, there’s no penalty for believing in something like kindness too much. I’ve never seen anyone get a ticket for being too self-controlled with their driving of a car.
Click here for a complete list of what kinds of desires you can’t do too much of, desire too deeply or believe in too passionately.
Q: What are some desires you’ve had to wrestle through? What ones have turned into life-giving beliefs, and how did you get there?