Delayed Gratification

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.                                                       Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

Delayed gratification, or deferred gratification, describes the process that the subject undergoes when the subject resists the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later                                                                                                                                             Wikipedia

Delayed gratification, as described above, is known to be a character quality associated with success, career accomplishment, and living a disciplined life. It allows us to do the current hard things in order to reap rewards not yet available. All of us have experienced the tensions involved with delayed gratification. We have experienced things like diets for weight loss, or the sacrifices made to work our way through college, or saving up for that special needed or wanted item, like a car.

There was a classic study done nearly 50 years ago (much simplified in this brief explanation) involving 4 and 5 year- olds who had a marshmallow placed in front of them with the instruction that if they could hold off and not eat the marshmallow, they would get 2 marshmallows when the experimenter came back into the room. Some of the children were able to wait for the reward of 2 marshmallows, and some were not. Follow-up studies years later indicated that the children who had been able to delay gratification seemed to fare better later in life in such areas as higher SAT scores, and more social and economic success.

This made me think about our current sacrifices for the COVID pandemic. If we can envision the future rewards of a defeated virus, and a return to all the things that we cherish, it might be easier to sacrifice present pleasures for future reward. Doing the hard things now will help ensure that future. Here’s hoping that most people will hold out for the future rewards by making present sacrifices.

Or, we can just eat the marshmallow…

Prayer: Lord, give us strength to envision a future that we cannot presently see, Amen.

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