Resisting Happiness Week 3: Delayed Gratification

(December 11, 2016)

Message: If you want to succeed, if you want happiness, pray for patience, the ability to delay gratification.

St. James tells us, "Be patient, brothers and sisters." Today we will talk about that: patience - the ability to delay gratification.

Remember we are in a series titled Resisting Happiness. In the first week we saw that we all in some way resist happiness. We do things that sabotage our own happiness and in the process bring misery to others, even to people we most care about. Each must make a radical choice: happiness or misery.

Last week we saw what the choice involves. In the journey of life a person can choose to be a pilgrim or a tourist. A tourist demands - and when things don't go right, he gets upset. A tourist lacks patience. A pilgrim, on the other hand, looks for meaning even in delays and setbacks. He keeps his deeper goal in mind. A pilgrim knows that to attain his goal, he has to practice patience.

Patience costs because it involves something difficult: self-denial, delayed gratification. In his book Resisting Happiness, Matthew Kelly says this: "In order to have a healthy financial life that balances earning with spending, and saving with giving, one must be able to delay gratification. In order to raise children to become the-best-version-of-themselves, one must be willing to delay gratification. Great marriages are built on individual and mutual delayed gratification. Great careers are built little by little over time, and require doing the hard yards early and delaying gratification."

Matthew Kelly illustrates delayed gratification with the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment. It involved researchers offering a child a choice between receiving a treat immediately or waiting fifteen minutes and receive two treats. With a marshmallow on the desk the researcher leaves the room. The child who waits gets an extra marshmallow. Years later researchers followed up and discovered that children able to delay gratification tend to have better life outcomes as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, general health and well being.

Now, I have to admit I was one of the kids who immediately ate the marshmallow. :) Over the years, however, I have prayed for patience. That is the message for this week: If you want to succeed, if you want happiness, pray for patience - that crucial skill of delayed gratification. Next week I will wrap up this series and have a special surprise (some of you may have already guessed).

Now to lead into the Catholic Community Service testimony, I want to say this: We need patience not only to succeed personally but also to help others. In my younger days when people came for help, I used to quickly give them something, maybe $5, mainly to get rid of the person. I don't do that any more not because I'm cheap (well, maybe a little) but it's better to talk with the person and help find a resource, maybe St. Vincent de Paul or Catholic Community Services. Speaking of Catholic Community Services I ask you now to give your full attention to _________________.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (Third Sunday of Advent, Year A):

2013: Faith & Truth
2010: From Despair to Hope
2007: Do Not Complain
2004: The Messenger
2001: Waiting in Joyful Hope
1998: Do Not Grumble, My Brothers

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