The loss of self-denial in our culture

Does self-denial exist in our society today? Photo: wikicommons

MISSOURI, May 24, 2013 — Self-denial is the “sacrifice of one’s own comfort or gratification.” It appears we have lost the meaning of these words.

They have been replaced with such phrases as “whatever,” “whatever turns you on,” “whatever makes you happy,” “go do your thing,” “who cares,” and others.  

Self-denial can relate to another person. For example, self-denial was dominant back in the days of the depression. Families engaged in self-denial when there was not an abundance of food and families had to share while at the same time individually practicing self-denial. An empty stomach will give you a wanting feeling in your stomach as you lay on your goose feather mattress while trying to go to sleep.

Having 35 cents in your pocket and wanting to go to a movie, but knowing you needed streetcar money the next day to go to school and buy a candy bar for lunch. Having the guys on Saturday morning wanting you to play some ball, but knowing you had to go to your bakery job and earn some money to be able to satisfy your needs for the upcoming week.

There was the ever presence of self-denial when it came to obeying the laws of morality. However, society in the 30s, 40s and 50s expected you to obey the laws of morality, which in turn helped you in practicing self-denial.  

Is self-denial practiced today? It appears to be rare. Again, we have become a society of “doing your thing,” which does not encompass the highest degree of self-denial.  

Of course, with everybody getting everything they want, as a rule, how much self-denial is required? Let us ask about teenage pregnancy, violence, language, morality, and stability of marriages. The statistics show an alarming negative trend, which indicates there is not too much self-denial going on, in fact, it is just the opposite, such as self-gratification.

How about having discipline when it comes to managing your money? Instead of buying that car with all the bells and whistles, maybe buy the car that will give you excellent and dependable transportation. Take the difference in cost and put it into some type of savings to create a greater wealth to do things, such as buying that first home or saving for your retirement in order to enjoy life by doing things rather than dreaming about them. There are many examples of self-denial as it relates to instant gratification versus a greater satisfaction in the long term.

When you are young, you are always faced with the decision of now or later. As you get older self-denial becomes more mandatory, such as eating habits that can have an impact on your health, not taking a vacation this year because you have to put a new roof on the house, and the beat goes on.  

Practicing self-denial helps to build a strong character in an individual. This in turn prepares you for the times when you have to reach down and face the unpleasant things of life.

Self-denial can be in the simplest of forms such as the doctor telling you can have a cup of popcorn with no butter or salt. It is rare to see the person that can just eat one cup of popcorn without panicking to eat the whole box along with a large soda. So what do we do? Don’t have the popcorn as we are too weak minded to stop at a cup, but it is still self-denial. Again, the young members of our families do recognize self-denial within the family unit and believe they in their subconscious respect that as an attribute of your character. 

However, that’s from a time and place I am from.


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Charles Vandegriff, Sr.

Charles is a fifty-four-year career in technology retiring at the directors level from three major corporations. Followed by three-plus years as a free-lance columnist, published three books, over three hundred speeches to senior organizations, radio interviews, one television commercial and finally married for sixty-five years, four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great grand children. 

Charles is also a Navy veteran.

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