The Law of Diminishing Return

March 5, 2009

C.S. Lewis states the principle this way, “An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure….”* The law of diminishing return is observable in sinful behavior. 

We’ve all felt the euphoria of physical exercise or work. It is a wonderful feeling – a God given pleasure. When we chase, however, an artificial euphoria through drugs and alcohol, painful consequences occur. Intoxication or a drug induced high can cause people to engage in risky behavior that harms the user or some innocent bystander.

When these behaviors become addictive, relationships are harmed. Work is harmed. Even the basics of taking care of ourselves are harmed. The euphoria may actually become harder to get, and the pursuit of the false euphoria does physical damage. Ever taken a look at the before and after pictures of a meth user?

The same thing can be said for sexual desire. Sexual desire, after all, is God’s idea. He made us male and female. Within marriage it is part of a wonderful bond that allows two people to grow in a lasting relationship. But pervert this desire into lust, and it works against relationship and a lasting bond. The complaint that it objectifies women (or men, for that matter) is a legitimate complaint.

Allow lust to lead to pornography, and it can degenerate even further. I rely on those who have written about this world. It is too dangerous a world to allow idle curiosity to visit, because it can enslave the visitor. Like most men in our culture, I have been on the edges of this world enough to realize it has an allure. The sirens’ song must be ignored, because the possibility of shipwreck is real. I’ve talked with enough men and women who have struggled with it in their relationship to know pornography has harmful effects.

The softer porn is closer to the natural sexual desire. But like a drug that can only satisfy with ever increasing doses, it can lead people to even more twisted views of sexuality: sexuality with violence, bestiality, and worst of all – child pornography. Even when people don’t make the descent into ever increasing levels of perversity; it still robs people of God’s intention for sexuality. In some cases, it may rob its victim of the possibility of real sexuality. Pornography promises what it cannot deliver – the human longing for intimacy. It is relationship destroying, not relationship building.

Isn’t it interesting that the law of diminishing return is observable? It seems to suggest that we live in a moral universe after all.

*C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 42.