Monday 19 March 2012

If It Makes You Happy...

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

For the past few days, I have been frantically working on an assignment for my “Sexuality and Marriage” ethics class, which comes in the form of a presentation on pornography to a group of university students. Through this process I had come across quite a few studies that examine the effects of pornography on many fronts. One of the studies cites a strong association between pornography use and dissatisfaction with the users' own intimate relationships, in addition to the plethora of other damages that it elicits.

I personally find it ironic that pornography users seek out these XXX materials for their personal gratification, but end up with a bigger void and dissatisfaction on all fronts. This reminds me of a pop song in my youth, “If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow. Two lines of the lyrics are particularly suitable for this occasion:

If it makes you happy/ it can't be that bad
If it makes you happy/ then why the hell are you so sad?

Indeed; if pornography makes you happy, then why on earth are you so sad? When our actions lead us into no lasting sense of fulfilment but rather a growing sense of in-authenticity, our inner alarms should be activated. This is similar to the one of the Rules For Discernment of Spirits, as described in the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of our Jesuit order.

St. Ignatius writes that we must pay great attention to the course of our thoughts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. If the entire course is good and is directed to what is right, then we are good to go. In the contrary, if we find that the course of our thoughts somehow leads us to a less-good place in the end, that bad and rotten fruits are born despite our good intentions, this would point towards the works of the evil spirit.

In other words, if something makes us happy, it does not automatically mean that it is something good and edifying. It calls for a closer examination into the entire course of thoughts and actions. In the case of a pornography user, the moments of arousal and instant sexual gratification may bring him a sense of euphoria through the release of endorphins, but what does it do to other aspects of his life? The communal aspect of his family, the meaning of the conjugal act with his wife, and how he sees the wife? Has his relationship with his wife been transformed for the better or for the worse? What happens to his social circle? This is not dissimilar to the situation of those who suffer addictions in other areas.

I do not claim to have a firm grasp on the entire scope of the problem, nor do I have all the answers. That being said, I think there is something valuable for us to learn here: examine whether our happiness truly brings us closer to God. So, where has your happiness taken you lately?

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post and amazing presentation to the "group of university students"!