Saturday, November 24, 2007

Values and (Short-Term) Enjoyments

I've got values and I've got things I enjoy. Those things aren't necessarily the same. I value good sleep and I value purity. But I "enjoy" staying up late to look at porn. When I say I enjoy it I also note that this enjoyment is temporary and in the bigger picture of things smaller than the enjoyment I get from good sleep and a pure heart.

This discrepancy between enjoyment and value, short-term enjoyment and long-term enjoyment, really, is troubling. It's hard to learn that values are better.

This really stems from a problem in my understanding of values. There are two different kinds of values, or rather two ways in which values apply to me (or any person). There are external values. These are things that people told you. It might be social norms; it might be things that we've picked up from our religion; it might come from our parents and families. There are internal values. Those are values that we picked up as well (usually) or that we acquired by our own reasoning. The important things is that an internal value is something that you value no matter what other people think. It's something that comes from the inside. You get enjoyment from such a value. This is different from an external value. Such a value isn't internal to us. Yes, we might have that value inside us as something to live by but living by such a value is no joy, it's a duty, it's like pleasing someone, even if that just means pleasing the part of you that holds the value.

Another way of explaining the different between these two is that an internal value is what we value (out of ourselves) whereas an external value is something that we value because we feel that we have to.

The funny things is that an external value might follow us throughout life even if the source of that value disappears. If your mom always told you that a tidy room is important this value might follow you throughout life as an external value even when you live by yourself and your mom never sees your room. You just feel bad if your room is untidy. But there are some people that have taken that value and processed it and made it their own. They've turned it into their own value. Those people will want to have a tidy room not because they feel bad when they see it messy but simply because a tidy room is important to them, gives them a certain satisfaction and joy.

Now, back to me and my values. I find that I do have a lot of external values that I've never processed and internalized. The tidy-room-value is one of those. I feel bad when my room is a mess. Yes, I do enjoy a clean room but that doesn't seem to be what I base my value on. I base it on something external, a law, a bad feeling when I see a dirty room and when I do this I tend to escape. I do not want to feel bad so I don't want to think of my dirty room so I don't confront the mess. If, on the other hand, this value was internal, simply driven by an enjoyment of cleanliness, I wouldn't feel bad when I saw the mess but would want to take time to clean it. I would want to confront it because I look toward what that gives to me.

Now, back again to me and my screwed-up values in regard to pornography. Why is it that I feel bad when I try to confront it? Are there external values that hinder me from solving this problem? Are there external values that I could internalize so they can help me in my fight instead of hindering me? Those would have to be addressed one by one. Values cannot be internalized over night (usually). It takes time to ponder them, realize that I do value them and lay down the pressure that I've put on me by letting them work as an external force on me.

I realize some bad behavior in regard to those values, or things that people tell me. Because they make me feel bad (and thereby hinder me) I put them aside, throw them out, even though I do realize they are good. Take, for example, the value of not having internet (or even TV?) at home. It is external, very external, so every time I consider this it just makes me feel bad, I don't find enjoyment in this value, so I put it aside. What if I could ponder, ponder the "value" that this gives me (I would have time to make music when I get home, read, get to bed early, etc.)? Maybe this could become an internal value for me and if it did I'm sure it would become a very deadly weapon in my fight with pornography.

What if I don't think of any other values for now, but only about this value. With God's help (prayer) and meditation, pondering, reading (work) I might be able to turn this value into an external value, let it work from the inside instead of whacking me from the outside.

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