No. 296

A few days ago I got a note from a reader in Florida who said, “I saw an article you put in the paper on guilt. Do you have any literature on companionship or married life? I need it bad for a friend.” It was obvious this reader, a lady or her friend, was suffering as a a result of some very destructive emotional or physical pain in her life. Unfortunately, guilt is a very destructive emotion and if not dealt with properly can become an albatross around her neck that will literally eat her alive. I answered her request as best I could in light of her brevity, by passing along some thoughts and printed information that hopefully will help her.
Later as I thought about this reader’s request I realized that her friend may also be a glutton for punishment and here is what I mean by this statement. The dictionary defines glutton in a couple of different ways. First, the way we normally think of a glutton is “one who eats to excess.” But there is also a much broader definition for the word glutton that applies to this saying, “one who has a great appetite or capacity for something.” Since the word punishment is also a part of the equation, if we do something to ‘excess’ that causes pain, then we become a glutton for punishment. Who among us has not had some other person make this statement to us?
In a general sense, when it comes to pain in our lives, it can usually be divided into two different groups...physical pain and emotional pain. As to what I’m saying here that relates to physical pain, I’m reminded of the man who was observed to be hitting himself in the head with a hammer. When someone asked him why he was doing it he said, “because when I stop, it feels so good.” Let me be quick to add, if you live with constant physical or emotional pain in your life for whatever reason, then you know it’s no laughing matter.
It’s a little bit different however when we think of someone being a glutton for punishment because this kind of pain is more or less self-inflicted, whether physical or emotional. Now this question please, are you a glutton for punishment? If you said no, then I believe you are indeed a very rare person. You see, I believe we are all gluttons for punishment at some time and in some area of our lives. We all make personal choices that results in excess and as a result we experience both physical and emotional pain.
Note the key word here is excess because we can’t live a day of our lives without making choices, and some of these are bound to lead to excess. So it really comes down to whether or not we make wise choices or foolish choices. In the final analysis our choices are determined by the dominant need we have at that time. For example, a person may be willing to put up with someone who is cruel to them if their need for love, acceptance and security is greater than the amount of punishment they have to endure. Another good example is the pro football quarterback who suffers pain from 10 brain concussions and continues to play even though he does not need the money. He has other needs that outweigh his need for money and the possibility of long term injury or even death.
As adults we are free to make our own choices. My friend Ramona Aragon sent me a quotation by the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that says it best, “Man learns nothing until he discovers it for himself and/or when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Being a glutton for punishment is not really a bad thing if we determine in advance that the pain will be worth it and the cause is just. Just remember, the consequences of our choices may also affect the lives of other people as well. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)