It is ironic that in a world of excess so many of us are still searching for true satisfaction. How is it that we can have nice clothes, great friends, decent jobs, amazing technology, a solid roof, instant access, and so many other gratifying conveniences and still somehow feel like we’re not quite complete with all life has to offer?
That is a question that the insightful and endearing Pete Wilson tackles in his new book “Empty Promises” (Thomas Nelson, 2012). Through a transparent look into his own life and into the lives of those closest to him, Pete shares an honest and thought-provoking evaluation of 7 common worldly pleasures that we pursue in what are ultimately vain attempts to find sustainable and meaningful fulfillment.
1. The Seduction of Achievement – Like many other addictions, “achievement stimulates our adrenaline and feeds our egos…yet the rewards of achievement are fleeting…and when we bow down to the god of Success, we inevitably find ourselves on the constant treadmill of proving ourselves again and again and again.”
2. Being Addicted to Approval – “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of expecting relationships to give our lives meaning…and approval addicts depend on other people to love them, care for them and affirm them. [But] It distorts our feeling and thinking by spitting out false definitions of success and failure and love and worth. And it can simply wear us out-because life as an approval addict is difficult and exhausting.”
3. Falling to the Perils of Power – “People don’t usually seek power because they desire to become belligerent, self-seeking persons. The initial attraction usually begins with and appetite for purpose. But somewhere in our journey, we begin to believe that being in control will fulfill that desire. That having power and wielding it will somehow make us matter…[But] The truth is, we’re never as powerful as we want to think we are” and it never gives us the feeling we hope it will.
4. Wanting Money to be more than Money – We think that more money will give us more security, that it will make us more generous and ultimately that money will give us more peace. But “there is zero correlation between money and true peace. Zero.” Part of the proof is realizing the answer to the question “how much money do you think you need to be totally financially secure? The answer to that question is the same for all of us – more than we currently have.”
5. Following Ritualistic Religion – “Religion whispers if we would just give more, show up more, serve more, pray more, read more, memorize more, preach more, evangelize more, sing more, then and only then, will we be safe. Then God will love you or at least love you more…But the more we run, the more exhausted we become. Ever day we wonder, wish, and hope we’ve done enough. It’s all so sad…and so unnecessary” because is in the end it’s not about what you do it’s about who you believe in.
6. Believing too much in Beauty – “Most of us discover very early in life that the way we look seems to carry a lot of weight in our culture. Pick up any magazine. Watch any commercial…We spend $74 billion on diet foods…and its about wanting to feel admired, desired, and ultimately, loved…”yet it turns out to be a Punishing Loop of self-criticism that starts so early” where almost 1/3 of 6 year olds girls say they want to change something about their bodies. No matter how thin, beautiful or well dressed we become we never reach a finish line of fulfillment.
7. Chasing grandiose Dreams – Dreams start out so desirable and innocent but can quickly turn into consumed fascinations where we are willing to sacrifice relationships and even our own values for the chance to become great. We get it set in our mind that accomplishing a huge dream will give us a complete satisfaction only to find later that even success wears off after a while.
This is one of those books for readers, that is a spiritually uplifting juxtaposition of challenging introspection and inspiring “ahas”. Filled with humorous anecdotes and relatable moments this was a book I underlined, earmarked, and eventually devoured in 4 or 5 sittings.
What is the alternative that Pete promises to bring true fulfillment? For that one you’ll have to take the journey for yourself. Check out Pete Wilson’s book “Empty Promises” here.