When I was about 21 years old, a thought popped into my mind that if I saved just a little bit of money each month, then in five years, I could probably have enough to buy a new guitar. It was a nice idea because I’ve had the same guitar most of my life and I really wanted a new one. However, my train of thought went immediately to, “That’s way too far off in the future. It might as well be a hundred years. I can’t do something consistently for that long. Maybe at some point I’ll somehow just have a bunch of extra money. I’ll buy it then.”
That memory of me dreaming of a new guitar and thinking of a savings plan resurfaced a few months ago and I realized that it’s been seven years since I dismissed that idea. If I had followed through, I’d have a new guitar by now and potentially two extra years worth of savings. So I started wondering, why isn’t long-term reward more motivating? Why couldn’t I see that five years away was just around the corner and before I knew it, seven years will have passed? I’m so bummed I was too selfish to think of my future self and what would be important to me then.
Short-term thinking and short-term motivation is one the driving forces in addiction. Porn and masturbation is all about how I will benefit in the here and now, without regard to what long-term term affects await. This is true not just of those paralyzing moments when we get triggered by an image, thought, emotion or circumstance. It’s true even in moments, days or weeks after acting out when we think, “Okay, I’m better now, since I don’t want it as bad. I’ll be fine from here on out.” Whether we choose to act on something negative or be passive about something positive, our natural desire for instant gratification has made us steal from ourselves. We’ve stolen from our future with this childish thinking.
I was getting counseling from a brilliant woman not too long ago and after I revealed some feelings of hopelessness, she asked me, “How old do you feel when those emotions come up?” I’d never heard that question before, but I explored it and told her, “I feel like I’m five years old.” She nodded in understanding. “Hopelessness is the rationale of a child. A child thinks that the here and now is what forever feels like and that it will never change. Children have a hard time understanding that the future truly exists and that we have power over it.”
That was a sobering moment. My years of acting out with porn and masturbation were propped up by the mindset of a little boy. Boys will think, “How can I benefit myself right now,” because the future is nonexistent, unattainable, irrelevant. Men think, “What can I do now that will benefit me five, ten, fifty years from now? Because this very moment determines my future.” Boys react to what feels good. Men intentionally act on what will be good for them.
So in April of this year, I asked myself what I could do to actively kill my boyish tendencies toward instant gratification. What could I do that will only benefit me in the future and will provide no immediate rewards? I got super basic and at the suggestion of one of my small group guys, I started doing 10 push ups a day. One, I knew that this was doable; two, I knew I wouldn’t see any kind of physical results immediately or even for a while; and three, I had to do something consistently every day. So I did. And in May, I increased it to 15. In June, 20 and in July, 25 every day. And guess what? Today, I’m super ripped! Not really. But the benefit I’m experiencing a measly three months later, is that I know I have what it takes to put in work consistently for something that I will only benefit from in the long run. With every push up, I’m breaking down my addiction to instant gratification and growing my long-term thinking muscles. And in that process, I’m rebuilding the scaffolding that is true sobriety and freedom.
Boys masturbate and look at porn because it feels good right now. Men build relationships with other men, make calls consistently, pursue God today, and share their hurt with their wives because it will pay off later.