Thursday, August 02, 2007

Obsession: Part I

I am weary of grant writing but there is yet one more to go.

What I really want to do is post on obsession and given the interesting blog posts by Marcus and Every Square Inch on balance in the Christian life, this seems to tie in perfectly.

So, while I finish up the scientific writing, I just wondered what your thoughts might be on the differences in obsession, addiction and balance.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Susan, You've got me to thinking.

Addiction seems to indicate lack of self-control and thus is tied into humanity's slavery to sin and to sinful self.

Obsession, well I'm not going to bother at the moment to look that up in a dictionary, but I take that to mean one is given over to something to the point that they see it or practice it in everything. Though it comes across with a negative ring quite often, it is not necessarily so. One might see Jesus obssessed with the Father, zeal for his Father's house consumed; Paul obsessed with Christ: for to him to live was Christ.

I might take balance as living in the way God intended for us. And this is possible only in Christ and with reference to all of Scripture. We need the whole of God's "special" revelation to us or we become imbalanced (even more, not that we arrive) to perhaps have a simplistic view of God based on just a few passages, like that God is a God of judgment who watches humans and is angry when they sin and makes them pay the consequences, etc. But fails to take into account the entire revelation of God in this, especially as we come to know him in the face of Jesus Christ.

Llama Momma said...

Great question!

Here's my thoughts:

Addiction is a trap that's hard to get out of. It's physiological in nature and often you don't realize you're addicted until you try to stop whatever you're doing. (And I'm not sure it indicates a lack of self-control, but maybe I just hate labels like that, since I have, in the past, wrestled with addiction.)

Obsession is a mental preoccupation with something. (And may lead to addiciton.) It takes over your mind and every waking moment is spent thinking about whatever your'e obsessed with.

Balance. The buzzword of the healthy chrisitian life. How do we achieve balance? I don't know. Was Jesus balanced? Certainly he drew away at times for solitude and modeled complete submission to God and persistance in prayer. I'll look forward to reading other responses on this!

Martin Stickland said...

I am pretty obsessed about my addiction to beer that puts me off balance .... sorry, I know, that's not what you wanted to hear!

Hope you are okay!


Mark Goodyear said...

Like ESI, I'm ultimately nervous about the current Christian emphasis on balance. For me, balance is a way of discussing focus in the context of limited resources. I've said that elsewhere.

My life is focused on God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. That focus is good.

I need to be a good steward of my time and resources as I turn that focus into the practical moments of my daily life.

I'm not answering your question, though, am I?

I think of obsession and addiction as compulsive behaviors. Even to be obsessed with God is a bad thing--I make an idol of the time and resources I devote to God, rather than to God himself.

Oy. Maybe I've just spent too much time reading about genetics and ethics and theology today. It's been a good day at work, but then I get in these moods.

Mark Goodyear said...

Also, when I think of balance I think of Plato's sense of "all things in moderation." It may not be fair to mix the two, but I do.

Certainly, some things are not okay even in moderation. Some things cannot be balanced.

As Jon Stewart said something like this. You can't take heroine in moderation. See, the problem with heroine is that it's got too much heroine in it.

Reading over the comments again, I like what ted and llama said. They didn't say it quite the way I would, but the spirit is the same. Our goal is to live the way God desires us to live--and to learn to accept that God's desires for us are better than our own desires for ourselves.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Obsession, I'll change a bit here after glancing at a book as I'm organizing my books- and this meets with comments here- obsession involves an unhealthy preoccupation with something that can be full of fear or worry or anger or whatever it might be.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Here's a web definition of obsession:

Recurrent and persistent thought, impulse, or image experienced as intrusive and distressing. Recognized as being excessive and unreasonable even though it is the product of one's mind. This thought, impulse, or image cannot be expunged by logic or reasoning.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Balance, it all depends on what one means by it. If you're thinking like Marcus and ESI then I would agree, it can be just a worldly notion.

I think too that balance in the sense of living fully in the full creation of God, a kind of whole living is good. If one also keeps in mind, in my view that we live in this present age when our priority is to take up our cross and follow Jesus, to live a cruciform life in Jesus.

Every Square Inch said...


I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this -

I view addiction as primarily as physical, rather than psychological...I also think that it's an overused word and potentially mask or excuse sinful behavior. You cannot repent of an addiction (after all, you're addicted), but when it's described as sin, it calls the offender to account.

Obsession - I think of this as llamma described, a mental preoccupation.

Balance - I think it's a nice idea, it's one that's often used in popular Christian culture and it has a ring of wisdom. But my question is this: is it fundamentally biblical?

Llama Momma said...

ESI -- I don't think addiction should ever be an "excuse" for sinful behavior, but certainly, we can see that continuing in sinful behavior can lead to addiciton.

Both need to be dealt with.

Ted M. Gossard said...

brothers and sisters,

In my way of thinking addiction and sin are linked. We're whole persons and sin and righteousness affects us as whole persons. Sin does bring significant psychological problems as well as the cascade of sin into our lives. Though I share the reticence of those who would avoid working with others according to the world's psychological categories.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Thanks all for the wonderful comments - and lots of food for thought - I really am working on the next post to tie all this together

- and it's interesting, as always, how all your comments - funny and serious - begin to tie the loose ends together in my mind.

Now if we could just figure out where Craver, Lorenzo, Even So and LL got off to, I believe we would have a quorum.

lorenzothellama said...

Here I am, here I am!!

I sometimes think we do too much thinking and struggling and dare I say pontificating!

As someone once said to me 'there's too much doing and not enough being'. I tend to agree with this. We don't know the answers to these sorts of questions or even whether they are important.

If I can get through each day without causing too much harm and maybe just a little good now and again, I feel I am doing ok. I have finished with philosophying and breast-beating. It did too much harm while I was going through that part of my journey!

I hope I am not sounding smug, as smugness is one of the things that really gets me down about certain types of Christians. You know, the sort that pin you against the wall and ask you if you are saved.

I'm just a sinner who struggles and who knows nothing.

Love Lorenzo.

lorenzothellama said...

I didn't mean to sound stroppy in my comments! Certainly none of you were pontificating. I just sometimes get weary of trying to go in too deep. I've done all this and all it got me was totally confused.
I got to the point when I said, 'I give in, I don't understand and I don't suppose I ever will' and I've been there since!
I still love discussions. One of my daughters did her degree in Theology and we had fantastic talks and discussions, and she gave me some marvellous books and let me have copies of some of her papers she wrote. My favourite was called 'The Difference Between an Icon and a Painting'. She is very clever, and is a brilliant writer. She would love to write professionally, but has too much going on in her life at the moment! She is 'Fairtrader' on my blogsite.
I'm rambling on a bit here, so as you really want to know about the words, well:
Addiction is probably more physical than mental. You can become addicted to substances as well as activities like sport, dieting, keep fit etc.

Obsession seems to me to be a mental state and could be focused at almost anything from stalking a film star, pop singer. It could even apply toblogging!

Balance speaks for itself really, keeping a perspective about things.

I think the real question is whether addiction and obsession are ALWAYS unhealthy.

L.L. Barkat said...

What a nice thing to think that I'm called on to participate, for a quorum. I loved Martin's answer because it actually expresses a truth quite simply. And Mark's paraphrase of Stewart also got me to smile.

I used to work in a drug rehab unit. The addictions were physical (heroine was the worst to watch someone withdraw from!) but also mental (as in Martin's note on obsession). Without addressing both, the person was sure to relapse.

So here's something interesting to think about, that I picked up in an expert's book on blogging. Blogging can produce physical addiction because it stimulates endorphins (the joy of getting mail, the joy of helping someone else out with a comment). Uh oh.

lorenzothellama said...

Oh well said II. I loved Martin's too. I am addicted to his blog site and go daily to leave him a message. I commend it to all of you.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Susan, Good work on LtL's blog. I liked your comments and Craver's as well. And I added another one of my own at the end. You have a good sense of humor and grace there, as well as telling the truth. I got directed there through Craver's blog.

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