Gratification blinds us. It’s a heavily underappreciated and a heavy, deadly truth. The reality that there’s countless opportunities to gratify ourselves on a daily basis accompanied with the fact that we gratify by default, makes the dangers of gratification and it’s blinding effect, something we all need to take much more seriously than we do.
Gratification’s blindness is not capped
The first cap I refer to is specifically within the area in which you are gratifying yourself. Perhaps that’s regarding entertainment, maybe it’s eating, maybe it’s relationships, maybe it’s work. You’ll never reach a place where you can’t gratify yourself even more, in that area.
The second cap I speak of, is much more dangerous. It’s every other area of your life. Even areas where no gratification was originally taking place, will eventually become effected by the continually reinforced habit. The blindness can’t be ‘quarantined’ to specific areas of your life. It will cause your judgement to become questionable in all areas of your life. Much like consistency’s relationship with reliability. Selective reliability doesn’t work. If it’s not consistent, it’s not reliable. Like wood-rot, rust or cancer: leaving ‘some of it’ in our lives, risks exposure to the rest.
“Perhaps”, we think to ourselves, “If I only gratify myself relative to my own resources, in my own time, I can limit the negative effects to myself.” Despite what our justifications lead us to believe, we’re also incapable of limiting gratification’s effects from reaching the lives of others. I don’t suppose I will expand upon it in this book, but let me summerise a concept by sharing this: We are all far more connected than we realise and I appreciate that for most of us it can be extremely difficult to authentically see and genuinely feel, however experiences (although rare) are repeatable, where we have those brief moments when we can honestly visualise those golden white, connecting strands between all living things, past, present and future, flowing through us all. We can temporarily ascertain that with every single decision made, an infinite ripple occurs throughout those eternal connections. The image doesn’t feel like an illustration shared with you as much as an image that was already in your mind, simply being re-illuminated and you start to recall having seen it once before. Long story short, all private choices have public consequences, the moment you consider the interconnectedness of all things.
A third cap I refer to, is blindness itself. Gratification’s blindness also decreases our ability to see ‘how blind we are becoming’. Perhaps even more importantly, the rate at which one is becoming increasingly blind. This one is especially dangerous because when we are aware that we’re presently blind (or that we are consciously aware that our judgement is presently questionable) we’re able to be more hesitant in our decisions, especially when those decisions can have serious consequences. Once you start spiralling down that slippery slope of ignorance however, your whole world can crumble around you and before you know it nothing makes sense any more. You know it’s all a giant mess, but you genuinely can’t see how to fix any of the problems anymore.
Things you once considered rock-solid can become no more reliable than the next whim. It becomes extremely difficult to see one problem from the next; what’s most important; what’s insignificant, it’s all just an overwhelming mess and you genuinely can not see a way out. Perhaps worse yet, you continue telling yourself and everyone around you that there’s nothing wrong. Being completely unaware of one’s blindness, is like the ‘unconscious incompetent’ who foolishly charges on thinking he’s got everything under wraps and can end up doing serious damage.
At least when we know our judgement is temporarily questionable for whatever reason (temporary anger, frustration, sadness etc.) we are less likely to make rash decisions, or permanently rule-out valuable things/people from our lives. We leave making decisions that could have permanent consequences (like ridding oneself of an edifying long-term relationship due to some short-term failure in it – or perhaps quitting a great job because of a failure in temporary management etc.) to the future, after we have calmed down a bit and can allow clearer heads to prevail.
Appreciate that we’re always more blind than we think.
I cannot overvalue the importance of being aware of the blinding effects that gratification has on our judgement. Before we write anything off permanently, we must be wise enough to first consider ‘if the thing is actually valueless’ or ‘perhaps am I temporarily incapable of accurately measuring value due to my own recent gratifications’?
The reality is that the edifying individual doesn’t consider anything valueless as he can use all things to his advantage. The gratifying individual however, will happily devalue the future and other things because it makes weighing them up against what he wants right now, that much easier.
If you’re considering anything, or more importantly anyone, to be valueless, that should be an instant red flag indicating your measuring tools are the problem and you have become gratifyingly blind.
Too many people make short-term heated decisions due to gratification’s blindness that have life-long (or longer) negative effects. Just like one who is over-passionate or over-anxious about a particular thing can discover with a bit of time and experience, that such wasn’t worthy of the angst, even though it was seemingly an enormous issue at the time. The issue hasn’t changed, but one’s ability to measure it accurately has. Things or people, that you would consider the MOST valuable your life when sober-minded, can be seemingly valueless due to gratification’s blindness.
The more you gratify, the more blind and desensitised you become and the more incapable you become of determining true value.
On the other side of the coin, edification increases one’s sensitivity, function and ability to identify value, but I’ll discuss that in more detail later.
All gratification blinds and all edification enlightens, to one degree or another, some more-so than others. One of the biggest problems (as aforementioned) is, just like “you don’t know what you don’t know”, it’s extremely difficult for the gratifyingly blind to identify their blindness. Even if they have once upon a time known a better world, one can become sufficiently desensitised so as to disregard its previous existence entirely.
We can’t see how blind we’ve been until we no longer are.
The power of hindsight, perhaps. If you want to gauge just how gratifying your current life is, spend a period of time consciously, intentionally and consistently, putting gratification behind you. As much as you can, start replacing gratifying habits in your life, with edifying ones. If you do so honestly, it will not be long (days, if not hours) before you begin noticing things you’ve never noticed before, or things you’ve allowed yourself to forget. In a couple of weeks you will also begin to feel the separation of yourself from those gratifying habits. Meaning even your desires to participate in such things will begin to identifiably wane.
Such experiences are nearly impossible to ‘pass on’ to another person with sufficient detail, and more importantly, feeling, so as to give the recipient a real glimpse of what such experiences are like. Nothing beats personal experience. An honest jubilee, however, is that it really doesn’t take very long. Consistency is key. Strive for edification in every facet of life, even if only for a short period of time (a month, or a week) and you will quickly come to see how much influence gratification’s had over your life thus far, and how blind you’ve been living.
Sometimes “flooding” our lives with edification is too difficult. The “to-do” list is too long and never being able to complete it all, too overwhelming. In such times I’ve honestly found hope, help and motivation simply in ‘gratifying fasts’. Spend little time about what good things you’re specifically doing, and just be certain that the bad things are being exiled. The approach is definitely a stepping stone to a better way (replacing gratification with edification) however it’s still a step and sometimes a very important one that needs to come first. You may not be becoming who you want to be yet, but there can be great power in knowing you’re no longer becoming who you don’t want to be, and with each passing moment you’re distancing yourself from that person.
Speaking personally for a moment, my greatest gratification of late is ‘distraction’. Not only bad distractions but even good distractions, meaning being distracted by good things, but yet still things that aren’t as good as what I should be doing. Hence, my #1 objective at the moment is simply “no idle screen time”. This is due to the fact that most of my distractions come by way of idle screen time. When I’m simply ‘browsing’ for entertainment’s sake, instead of having a purpose. I’m only 4 days in but am feeling great. The ‘waning’ of the desire to be distracted by idle screens, has already begun.
Sometimes one is honestly struggling to navigate through the blindness and despite best efforts continues to fail. I may speak more on this later and provide more details/lists of things one can do, but for the time being suffice it to say that I have two main recommendations. The first being that which was already expressed, which is to simply put a stop to the gratification. The second, however, is to give heed and remember. When all you can manage is to “stop”, even if it involves staring at a blank wall for hours on end, from here, try to remember. Spend that silent time, remembering whatever edifying thought that’s required to get you back into the right mental space to continue working.
The main point is we MUST forsake gratification, if even only for a time, to give us the experience and distance sufficient to see how blind our gratifications have made us.
Those who pursue gratification will exponentially fail to see their pursuit as gratifying. The more you gratify the more blind you become to gratification. Such blindness/desensitisation usually occurs slowly and inconceivably at first and increases as it continues. Eventually it only becomes obvious once again when one is capable of freeing themselves from it for a time. We must get away, we must break free, we must liberate ourselves from our gratifying habits at least long enough to gauge just how strong their hold is on our lives. Only then can we begin to see how blind we really are.