3-Week Series: Double Blessing


Summary: 1. Everyone says “Follow your heart”. But “The heart is deceitful above all things . . ." 2. we tend to be passionate about things we're good at, but getting good takes a lot of work 3. It's difficult to see the difference between passion and addiction

The most common career advice people hear these days is that in order to be happy you have to pursue your passion.

This is the first generation I’m aware of that has swallowed such a lie.

Today I’d like to present three problems, huge reasons that pursuing your passion as a path to happiness is problematic, and then three solutions to that problem:

1. Everyone says “Follow your heart”. But Jeremiah 17:9 says

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

2. According to research concerning the things we become most passionate about, we tend to be passionate about things we are really good at. The problem is you can’t get really good at something unless you practice a lot at that thing.

3. Passions are a precarious precipice upon which to build an edifice of happiness partly because it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a passion and an addiction. Passions are just as likely to destroy our lives as bring fulfillment.

In every previous generation, the common wisdom was that our passions, our emotions, must be molded and directed if we are ever to be happy.

Going all the way back to Aristotle, who had much to say about passions, the term used for passion was Pathe-from which we get words like pathetic, and empathy & compassion (both meaning "to feel together"). When Cicero sought to translate the Greek Philosopher into Latin he said he had difficulty choosing the best word for passion, since Pathe can refer to illness (the root word for pathology, the study of illness, and psychopath, sick soul). Both Cicero and Seneca taught that the passions have to be governed or directed, otherwise they will destroy a person. Recent research has demonstrated that our emotions-our passions-are related to a group of chemicals, and confirms the validity of some of the ancient wisdom on the subject.

We human beings are a bundle of chemical reactions. Those chemical reactions determine what we do and how we feel and how we respond to stimuli. They are NOT pre-determined, but are very much under our influence. If we indulge our desire for alcohol, there is a very addictive chemical released in our brain called Dopamine. I would guess there may be other chemicals involved in the process as well (we are complex creatures) but this is the primary one currently identified. We get the same Dopamine boost when we eat food or are sexually stimulated. All of these activities are regulated by Dopamine, in the sense all of these activities result in the same kind of stimulation in the brain-our brain's way of telling us that such an activity should be repeated. Unfortunately, alcohol is unhealthy, and it invokes the same response in our brain as activities that are healthy. Same with food, the foods that are not very good for us create the larger Dopamine response. A person who is addicted to food or alcohol or sex is not addicted to any one of those things, but to the chemicals in the brain that make those things feel good.

These natural feelings, or passions, can, however, be directed by us in a number of ways:

1. Create healthy addictions. When we gain our pleasure from exercise (which also releases Dopamine & Serotonin) we get a good addiction. When we grow accustomed to healthy food, the unhealthy foods are much less appealing-they don't feel as good. If you pray and meditate on Scripture, research indicates you can actually begin to create Dopamine and Serotonin at will, by looking inward and upward.

2. Don't start addictive behaviors-if something is an issue for you, avoid it completely. This principle isn't stated enough these days. The best way to lose fat is to NEVER get fat in the first place. The best way to quit smoking is to never smoke. The best way to avoid becoming alcoholic is not to drink. If you know you have a weakness in an area, avoid those things which trigger your addiction-clean out your home, your phone, your computer, your relationships, your life of those things which lead toward unhealthy addictions.

3. Fill your life with healthy rewards. There is another pleasure chemical-oxytocin. It is what makes you feel good when you hug someone you love. It is the same chemical that is released when you do something altruistic or generous. When you help someone else you get a shot of oxytocin. The thing about oxytocin is it protects against the much more dangerous and potentially unhealthy addictive pleasure chemical Dopamine. In other words, when your life is filled with the pleasure of giving and serving and building up others you build up a resistance against the emotional roller coaster of looking for a dopamine high.

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