It seems like I’ve heard a million times that you should not seek pleasure. Pleasure in itself is not bad, but you should not live for it; you should not seek it as a goal. Why not? What’s so bad about seeking pleasure, if I’m not hurting anyone? Any priest or parent or catechist or good friend will go on to explain that after the fall of Adam, our nature is damaged; our will is weak, and if we are not careful we can enslave ourselves to our own passions. And slavery does not lead to anything good. In fact, it leads to something that is very bad: separation from God, because your love for yourself, your desire for gratification, exceeds your love for God. That is, you are hurting yourself, you are “hurting” God, and you are probably hurting your friends, family, or boy/girlfriend… depending on the situation.
Despite the millions of times we’ve heard it, somehow it’s hard to let that really sink in. Somehow the mentality of the world manages to slip in and tries convince us that, “Ok, it’s definitely not a good idea to let yourself be led by your passions, and I’m not going to live that lifestyle, but if someone else wants to live like that… I mean that’s just the way it is these days.”
Not too long ago I heard that an old friend of mine was found in a hospital after a suicide attempt. He wasn’t “gothic” or “emo” or obsessed with darkness or death. But he did like to party. He was fun to be around; he had a good sense of humor; he was smart; he was pretty respectful, and I could go on with good things about him. But I remember how thrilled he was when he got accepted to his university, known as one of the biggest party schools in the entire country. So his apparently innocent desire to have a good time in college somehow (I don’t know the details, but I’m sure it’s a very sad and complicated story…) led him not only to slavery, but to desire his own death.
Love of God needs to be greater than love of pleasure, of gratification, and greater than a desire to “have a good time”. And that needs to sink in deep: first of all, for your own sake, because you are probably not as strong as you think, but also for the sake of those around you. If you look on with a condescending smile while your friends slip down that path, it hasn’t sunk in: maybe you don’t want to get your hands dirty, but that’s not love towards God nor towards your friends. That’s cowardice. Love is to share what is genuinely beautiful and liberating: the Truth. As it is written in the Bible, love is to say to your friends, “You will not die forever!”. Of course, they are free to believe you or not… but don’t be a coward. Your cowardice could have grave consequences. Love your friends.