“If it feels good, do it!” How many times have you heard this? It’s often repeated in our culture, and we might have said it ourselves or heard it from friends. As one popular song years ago declared, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”
The problem is, acting solely based upon how things feel can easily get us into trouble. Feelings can cloud our judgment or distort our thinking. Many years ago, I amassed a sizable credit card debt, largely the result of impulsive spending decisions that made me feel good. Then the bills started coming in. It took years to recover from the damage of being guided by my feelings.
I was on the interstate recently, driving the speed limit at a reasonable distance from other vehicles.
Suddenly, a sportscar zoomed past me, moving at least 30 miles faster than I was going. The driver might have been feeling good, exhilarated by traveling at such a high rate of speed. But this was not the German autobahn, and the highway was filled with cars. If the driver’s delight in speed had resulted in a terrible accident, or even a costly citation, his or her feelings would have changed dramatically.
Leadership consultant Tim Kight has observed on social media: “Not everything that feels good is good for you. Not everything that is good for you feels good.” Lots of wisdom in a handful of words.
If a person struggles with alcohol, having “just one drink” might feel good, but it will probably lead to many more, along with undesired results. The sexual revolution of the 1960s became a major catalyst of the “if it feels good, do it” philosophy, but the negative consequences of casual one-night stands and “hooking up” have been immeasurable.
The second part of Kight’s statement is one we often overlook: Not everything that is good for you feels good. There’s perhaps no better example than discipline, whether it’s in learning a skill, military training, improving one’s health, or raising a child.
If a person decides to get fit physically, a first step might be to adopt a training regimen and plan regular trips to the gym. I’m not a top athlete by any means, but following my open-heart surgery in 2006, I began a cardiac rehab program and have tried to maintain a consistent workout program ever since. My motto is, “I hate to exercise – but I love to have exercised.” Exercise always looks better in past tense.
Have you ever said something like, “I wish I could play the piano,” or “I’d love to learn how to paint in watercolor”? A reason many people can’t do things like that is because they don’t feel like going through the tedium of spending many hours practicing or learning the craft.
Discipline seems to have become a neglected aspect of parenting. Rather than giving their children guidelines for behavior and then enforcing those when necessary, a mom or dad might decide instead to let little Buddy or Suzy make their own choices, even though they might not be old enough to determine what’s best for themselves.
In the Bible, however, we find that discipline is not optional – it’s a mandatory, essential part of growth and training. And the Scriptures clearly acknowledge the reality that discipline often doesn’t feel good, even if it’s good for us.
The book of Proverbs alone contains more than 30 verses related to the importance of discipline and correction. Here are some examples:
“He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17).
“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding” (Proverbs 15:32).
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).
“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17).
Discipline, the Scriptures teach, is an integral part of God’s spiritual training program for us. It’s also a demonstration of His love. Hebrews 12:9-11 makes the connection between human and divine discipline and correction:
“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:9-11).
Many times, life’s trials and tribulations serve as a form of discipline, experiences God uses to mold us into the people He intends for us to become. Unfortunately, going through adversity rarely feels good.
Peter the apostle noted this when he wrote, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine…” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
So, the next time you find yourself thinking, “If it feels good, do it,” think again. And if something you’re going through doesn’t feel good, take heart – maybe there’s a good reason for it.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.