Some things aren’t right or wrong. They simply are what we make them. My appetites, for instance, as well as my desires and passions, can give me a lot of pleasure and happiness, or they can get me into trouble. On their own they aren’t good or bad, but they are motivators. They provide a reason for me to make choices. And that, I believe, is one of the most important reasons for mortality.
From the time I was nine years old, I had very few issues with my appetite for eating, or so I thought. I enjoyed food and I ate as much as I wanted. Consequently, I was the fat little kid the other kids made fun of, and I was always the last one to be picked on a team for sports. I may not have liked being called fatso or gordo, but I learned to live with it over the next ten years of my life.
Every once in a while during my childhood, I would get sick and lose my appetite. It was usually due to a bad cold or the flu. On a number of such occasions, I remember my Mom asking me, “How’s your appetite?” She knew one of the first signs of recovery was that my appetite would come back. She was right.
These two memories frame an interesting perspective on appetites for me. On one hand, I felt like my active appetite wasn’t a problem, yet I had a hard time controlling it. On the other, the only time my hunger slowed down was when I was sick. Controlling wasn’t a problem because my appetite went away. I’ve found the healthiest place for me to be is right in the middle. Without hunger, I would lose motivation to eat. Without control, I would have no discipline and would have to live with natural consequences. Self-control allows me to enjoy my appetites.
I believe the patterns I have experienced with my appetite to eat can be applied to all of our appetites. Whether it is a desire for a simple indulgence such as a cookie for a snack or dessert, a need for sleep, or a desire for sexual intimacy, all appetites need restraint and control.
The prophet Alma counseled his son, Shiblon, to bridle his passions so that he could be filled with love. (Alma 38:12) He didn’t tell him to be ashamed of his passions, or suppress them. Alma merely cautioned him so that he could enjoy positive natural consequences.
King Benjamin taught that the natural man is an enemy to God. (Mosiah 3:19) Is that because we are inherently evil? I don’t believe so. I do believe it is in our natures to give preference to our appetites, even at the risk of offending God. We like to eat when we are hungry, and we get grumpy when we have to go without. The more I defer to my body, the louder that inner voice gets and the less restraint I have. When I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, I feel greater spiritual strength and comfort from within. When we do the latter, we are in less danger of being “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4)
I have often been inspired by a principle the Lord taught Abraham about self-control. Speaking of Himself, He said, “there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.” (Abraham 3:17) God is the perfect example of self-control. If I wish to be like Him, then I must learn to bridle my passions, my desires, and my appetites.
Because our appetites can often be very strong, and can easily sway our decisions in the brevity of a single choice, it is not unlikely that we will make incorrect choices in the moment of hunger. Looking at our appetites ahead of time can help avoid making prejudiced decisions.
One simple question that has helped me to make better choices is this: Will my choice allow me freedom to make more choices, or will it limit my ability to choose?
Eating healthily gives me physical strength and nourishment to take care of my body. If I eat whatever I want without restraint, I personally find that I become overweight and am more inclined to indulge. This allows me less freedom to be physically active, and encourages me to eat more so that I can find some pleasure in satisfying my appetite. Repeating this behavior can lock me in to fewer choices that will help me to be happy. Simply said, I begin to consume for my lusts.
Other appetites can be much more addictive than eating food. When I begin to dedicate – and even consume – more and more of my time, talents, and personal resources to feed an appetite, I believe I am guilty of feeding my lusts, and that makes it harder to feel the spirit.
I feel strongly that we shouldn’t feel guilty for our internal motivations. They are what we make of them. Appetites are wonderful evidence that we are alive and well. The ability to control those motivations helps me to feel empowered, and even more confident that I can act for myself, and not simply be acted upon by my appetites. As long as I am able to recognize and follow the spirit, I feel much better about my choices, and my appetites.
What I Believe…
This is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am solely responsible for the views expressed here.