You may have noticed that the vast majority of my blog posts are titled with, or start out with, a question. This is simply because when you study the pillars of Religion, Politics, Science, Philosophy, etc. you generally start with a premise which you then seek to disprove or prove. When you state your premise (your proposition) it is usually best to phrase it in the form of a question (see definition #2) in order to generate interactive thought. It also invites a response from your audience asking them to participate in the debate with you.
I start out with this bit of rather obvious understanding because sometimes, despite ones best intentions, some questions may still come across as offensive to your audience which, in some cases, will immediately put them on the defensive. And that is the last thing I wish to have happen with this particular post because I would, literally, like to challenge (almost) all of the conventional wisdom out there on addiction and would urge you to consider it carefully.
Your first response to my title question might be “Why nothing! I have no addictions!” And I certainly understand why you might answer this way. Given how we have come to define, understand, and treat addictions the world over. But I’d like to propose a different world view, one that just might get you to rethink whether you are addicted to something or not.
Addictions come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. We typically think of the “top five” and tend to lump everything together with them and exclude everything else. Probably the number one or number two thought that comes to everyone’s mind when I say addiction is either alcohol or drugs. And certainly no one should disagree that these substances are addictive. Alcoholism has been around almost since the beginning of time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism nearly 16.6 million people in the United States suffer from Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD).
I trust you will grant me the fact that I could come up with statistics on most (or all) of the common addictions and several of the ones you might believe are questionable as well. For drug abuse statistics in the U.S., you might check the National Institute on Drug Abuse. I am not discussing alcohol or drugs, but rather addictions. These are just common and well known addictions.
We might also think of tobacco (listed on the NIH site), food, or gambling addictions to round out our top five.
We could even get into more esoteric addictions such as sex, compulsive spending, Internet, or even video gaming addictions. But what if I were to propose Christianity? Have you ever known anyone addicted to Christianity? I have. And let’s be clear here, what we’re really talking about is a Religious disorder, someone acting in a manner they perceive their religion would prescribe or require. Recall our definition of addiction would include anything that would cause us to habitually practice something that is repetitious to the extent to cause anxiety upon withdrawal.
What about prayer? Could one be addicted to prayer? And if you were, what would be so bad about that? After all, shouldn’t we pray all the time (I Thessalonians 5:17)? I would submit that one can be addicted to prayer. And that it is not a good thing. I would even contend that we have been specifically warned against it (Matthew 6:6-8). Praying with “vain repetitions” is a clear sign of “prayer addiction“.
My point here is that there are addictions far more reaching and more subtle than the vast majority of the world would ever give credence to. And not only that, they also affect every single person who walks upon this Earth. Given enough time and effort, I would guarantee you that I could find your addiction. And addictions are not universal either. Whatever you find addicting, may not phase me in the least. And my addictions may be completely boring and unfathomable to you. Addictions, physical and psychological, are a part of all of our lives and affect all us either directly or indirectly.
And yet with all of the self-help efforts out there, with all of the clinics, and the rehabilitation centers, and the support groups, I never hear anyone address or define addictions correctly. It just doesn’t happen, or rarely happens such that it is hidden in the noise.
My explanation for addictions is: that compulsive behavior that takes over our lives when we allow our lusts to surge out of control.
Please allow me to establish a bit of a foundation here. Because this is counter to popular thinking, and I would contend that what we have been taught most of our lives (if you are contemporary) is wrong.
First of all let’s examine love. Why? Because it is going to become very important in just a moment. If you look at the definition of love I’ve linked to, it would seem to cover Eros very well. It is how the ancient Greeks represented sexual or erotic love. The definition might border on Philo (Philos-adelphia), or brotherly love. What the ancient Greeks ascribed to family bonds and close friendships. But it certainly does not even come close to Agape (see under Origin) which is a sacrificial love as only God himself can love.
When we think of love, we tend to believe that the opposite of love is hate. But nothing could be further from the truth. Where this falsehood started, I’ve been unable to determine, but somewhere in human history we came up with the idea that you either loved, or you hated, and that the two were mutually exclusive. But this is not the case. If you don’t believe me, simply think of someone you love (that you really, really love. A with all your heart type of love). Now tell me, in all honesty, that there is nothing that you hate about that person. Some quirk, or action, some little nuance about them that just rubs you the wrong way and just drives you crazy. You hate it (go back and look at the definition again if you have to). And yet you just love the person. But there are things you hate. At exactly the same time. Ergo, the two are not exclusive. I can take this a step further with God. God hates sin (Proverbs 6:16-19), and we are a sinful and wicked people (Romans 3:23), and yet God loves us (John 3:16). God loves, and God hates, at exactly the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.
But there is something that is. And that is lust. God does not lust. Neither can he lust (He is, after all, God). And isn’t it interesting the words used in the definition of lust? Words like uncontrolled, passionate, overmastering desire, and craving. The exact same words one might use to describe the effects of an addiction.
God loves, but God does not lust. The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is lust. And uncontrolled lust leads to addictions in our lives. They are fueled by sin in the world and they are powerful and overwhelming forces.
And there is one sure fire way to deal with addictions in your life. Replace the lust with love. You see, when God’s love begins to permeate your life, it pushes out the lusts which curbs the addictions.
So, what are you addicted to? Because I guarantee you whatever it is, (1) it is fueled by lust. And (2) it can be overcome with love. My prayer for you today is that you will allow God’s love to come into your life in order to drive out the lusts that fuel your addictions and in turn, make you a more balanced person for his service.