I love Jelly Belly jellybeans, but there are a few flavors I can’t stand!

Pina Colada, Top Banana, Buttered Popcorn…

Let’s just say I always sort through the colorful beans and throw some flavors in the trash before I actually eat any! And if I accidentally miss one of the gross ones, I know it immediately.

Chomping into a handful unleashes a torrent of bad-tasting sweetness.

A few months back, I was paging through The Wall Street Journal when I stumbled across a half-page BMW advertisement that had the same discordant effect.

JOY DOES NOT COMPROMISE!” it proclaimed in bolded, size 84 font.

It took me a few seconds to assess my distaste – I like BMWs, but I hated the ad.

Why?

Because joy DOES compromise! It’s pleasure that does not.

Unfortunately, our culture constantly encourages us to confuse the two. As a result, many of us end up spending much of our lives pursuing pleasure, mistakenly thinking it’s going to lead us to happiness. When it doesn’t, we end up disillusioned, frustrated, and confused.

A retreat to the dictionary bears little fruit because the words joy, happiness, and pleasure are ostensibly interchangeable. Thus, they are used to define each other, though they are actually quite different. Think of your own connotations and this reality becomes clear: ‘Pleasure’ connotes sensual gratification and ephemeral feeling, whereas ‘happiness’ is more of a lasting characterization. Joy is perhaps more temporary, but is also more akin to great ‘happiness’ than ‘pleasure.’

I’m risking the rhetoric here to get us all to the same starting line. We must address this ad from a well-laid foundation because its message so aptly characterizes the pervasive American thought process that got our country in its ongoing financial nightmare (with California leading the way).

This thinking so permeates our daily reality that we will miss its monstrous error if we don’t explicitly identify it.

Joy compromises!

Joy, as it relates to happiness, is long-term and requires investment and sacrifice. Joy is not achieved or sustained by instant gratification. Joy is comprehensive in focus, and accounts for the needs of others as well as self. Joy is balanced. Ecclesiastes 2:26a ties joy to wisdom, indicating that God gives both to those he loves. Most powerfully, our Ultimate Example chose to endure the Cross! For what? The joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2)! He gave up his temporal wishes for something much greater (Luke 22:42).

But pleasure does not compromise!

Pleasure does whatever it wants. It’s short-term and shortsighted, and relates most often to instant gratification. Pleasure is also self-focused and easily self-centered. Pleasure is certainly not associated with discomfort or self-sacrifice. Instead, its primary concern is the here and now: “If it feels good, do it.”

Think about it. This attitude is ubiquitous.

Case in point: ‘Don’t compromise – drive a BMW!’

As expected, the ad got even more blatant as it went on to detail the financing options available: “Quick, everyone go to your nearest BMW dealership and instantly amass tens of thousands of dollars of consumer debt to finance a major liability! Don’t compromise! Don’t think!”

That’s obviously not what the ad actually said, but it should have.

This kind of thinking is foolish, and dangerous! Yet, our culture caters to it at every turn and we are bombarded by it in every media format.

We must learn to recognize it – and avoid it!

It’s not hyperbolae to say that our future, the future of those we love, and the future of our nation depend on us learning to exercise more wisdom and discretion in this area than we have become accustomed to. In fact, the current state of our global economy is in large part a result of our failure to do just that.

In case my point still isn’t clear: Joy does not ‘deserve’ a luxury automobile, and joy would not steer you into debt to get one.

Joy compromises.

But here’s the other side of the coin: The only thing joy doesn’t compromise is its willingness to compromise as directed by wisdom!

Let’s apply this. If the car you can currently pay for is a used Honda, that’s what you should be driving. It’s still a liability, but at least you’re not paying for both the car-related expenses and the debt you created to obtain it.

This lesson can be applied in many different situations, but my aim is to help us all recognize the thought process: Joy compromises, as directed by wisdom to do so.

So, let’s embrace wisdom and compromise as wisdom dictates we should.

Though it won’t always lead to pleasure, it will lead to joy!

Leave a Comment: Share your story! How has compromising ‘instant gratification’ resulted in joy in your life?

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