Colleen, a lover of the written word, has a master's degree in English literature and enjoys finding unique and poignant quotes.
When Does Comfort Become Indolence?
What is self-indulgence? To a large degree, the answer is individual and relative to one’s own circumstances. For example, let's say a man claims it is vital for him to take a tipple of whiskey every hour in order to ease his anxiety, while a woman justifies phoning a helpline continuously throughout each day in order to cope with her life’s travails. In the first case, the man is destroying his heath, while in the second, the woman is taking help-liners’ time from others because she feels her needs are greater than theirs. Perhaps these two people would regard each other as self-indulgent.
We might interpret self-indulgence as the feeding of our personal desires to the detriment of ourselves or others; however, many would associate it with the synonyms greed, avarice, intemperance, gluttony, decadence, wastefulness, sloth or lack of compassion. Each of us sets our own boundaries, yet it is part of human nature to yield to temptation and commit errors resulting in excessive behavior for which we later feel guilty or ashamed.
Excessive self-indulgence tends to breed self-contempt and create disdain in others. Fear of this scorn can urge the hedonist to avoid the company of those who do not savor the same or similar vices. In his book, The Philosophy, Georges Courteline wrote of excess, 'If we had to tolerate in others all that we permit in ourselves, life would become completely unbearable.'
The following extracts and quotations explore self-indulgence and the many synonyms that we associate with this subject.
Quotes About Keeping Excess in Check
- 'Life is always a discipline, for the lower animals as well as for men; it is so dangerous that only by submitting to some sort of discipline can we become equipped to live in any true sense at all.' —H. Ellis in Essays of Love and Virtue
- 'The man of "modern ideas," the conceited ape, is excessively dissatisfied with himself—this is perfectly certain. He suffers, and his vanity wants him only "to suffer with his fellows.' —Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil, Chapter 222
- 'He, who requires much from himself and little from others, will keep himself from being the object of resentment.' —Confucius
- 'To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.' —Confucius
- 'The dinosaur’s eloquent lesson is that if some bigness is good, an overabundance of bigness is not necessarily better.' —Eric Johnston
- 'If a man has a strong faith he can indulge in the luxury of skepticism.' —Friedrich Nietzsche
- 'The more you let yourself go, the less others let you go.' —Friedrich Nietzsche
- 'Pardon one excess and you encourage the commission of many.' —Le Bethany Jones
- 'Even moderation ought not to be practiced to excess.' —Unknown
Excerpts From Guesses at Truth by Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare
The quotes in this section are from the book Guesses at Truth by brothers Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare. It was first published in 1827.
- 'The germ of idolatry is contained in the proneness of man's feelings and imagination to take their impressions from outward objects, rather than from the dictates of reason; under the control of which they can scarcely be brought, without a great impairing of their energies. It may possibly have been in part from a merciful indulgence to this principle of our nature that God vouchsafed to show himself in the flesh.' —Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare in Chapter 27: Principle of Our Nature
- 'Pride in former ages may have been held in too good repute: vanity is so now. Pride, which is the fault of greatness and strength, is sneered at and abhorred: to vanity, the froth and consummation of weakness, every indulgence is shown.' —Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare in Chapter 334: Consummation of Weakness
- 'Excessive indulgence to others, especially to children is in fact only self-indulgence under an alias.' —Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare in Chapter 196: Excess and Alias
- 'When zeal subsides, such a weight is found to be inconvenient; and men loosen the articles which press the hardest, until they slip off one after another. Skepticism however, like other things, is enlarged and pampered by indulgence.' —Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare in Chapter 197: Skepticism Is Pampered
About Moderation Being Overshadowed by Greed
- 'Moderation has been created a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.' —LA Rochefoucauld
- 'What nature requires is obtainable, and within easy reach. It’s for the superfluous we sweat.' —Lucius Annaeus Seneca
- 'People who are greedy have extra-ordinary capacities for waste; they must, they take in too much.' —Norman Mailer
- 'Men hate the individual whom they call avaricious only because nothing can be gained from him.' —Voltaire
- 'There are four layers of chocolate, the first is taste, the second is approval, the third is persuasion, and the fourth is the proposal.' —Antonio Forage
- 'Moderation, after all, is only the belief that you will be a better man tomorrow than you were yesterday.' —Murray Campion
- 'Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.' —Charles Dickens
About Perception and Individual Valuation
- 'No estimate is more in danger of erroneous calculations than those by which a man computes the force of his own genius.' —Samuel Johnson
- 'To refuse the sweets of life because they once must leave us, is as preposterous as to wish to have been born old, because we one day must be old.' —William Congreve
- 'Remember that there is always a limit to self-indulgence but none to self-restraint, and let us daily progress in that direction.' —Mahatma Gandhi
- 'It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do the performance is itself the wage.' —Learned Hand
- 'A man is a kind of inverted thermometer, the bulb uppermost, and the column of self-valuation is all the time going up and down.' —Oliver Wendell Holmes
- 'Let a man’s talents or virtues be what they may, we only feel satisfaction in his society as he is satisfied in himself.' —William Hazlitt
- 'It is circumstance and proper measure that give an action its character, and make it either good or bad.' —Plutarch
About Presumption and Desire for Status
- 'Man desires to be free and he desires to feel important. This places him in a dilemma, for the more he emancipates himself from necessity the less important he feels.' —W. H. Auden
- 'A sick man that gets talking about himself, a woman that gets talking about her baby, and an author that begins reading out of his own book, never know when to stop.' —Oliver Wendell Holmes
- 'The extreme pleasure we take in speaking of ourselves should make us apprehensive that it gives hardly any to those who listen to us.' —LA Rochefoucauld
- 'Glory consists of two parts: the one in setting too great a value upon ourselves, and the other in setting too little a value upon others.' —Montaigne
- 'It astounds us to come upon other egoists, as though we alone had the right to be selfish, and be filled with eagerness to live.' —Jules Renard
- 'In a restaurant, I once heard a posh-sounding man sighing to his dinner companion, "I sometimes wonder what life must be like for those who are not educated or intellectual, and cannot articulate their wishes and needs on the level you and I can. If only we could find a way that might help at least one such sufferer."' —Terence Brant
About Conceit and Exaggeration
- 'What is an obstacle in our loving men is the love they have for themselves, which is touchy, exclusive, inordinate, and tragic. We could never love them as much as that.' —Paul Geraldy
- 'The dangerous ones are those who stop you every time you want to turn around, whom instead of patting your hand, insist that you feel their guts. And the more they suffer, the more they make you suffer, the happier they are.' —Jean Anouilh
- 'Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.' —Norman Mailer
- 'All I ask of life is a constant and exaggerated sense of my own importance.' —Unknown
- 'Exaggeration is a prodigality of the judgment which shows the narrowness of one’s knowledge or one’s taste.' —Baltasar Gracian
- 'The trouble with a lot of self-made men is that they worship their creator.' —Waldo E. Martin
- 'Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs.' —Unknown
About Waste and the Pleasure of Extravagance
- 'Dry happiness is like dry bread. We eat, but we do not dine. I wish for the superfluous, for the useless, for the extravagant, for the too much, for that which is not good for anything.' —Victor Hugo
- 'Adhere to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant, and broken the monotony of a decorous age.' —Ralph Waldo Emerson
- 'If the things that produce the pleasures of the dissolute were able to drive away from their minds their fears about what is above them and about death and pain, and to teach them the limit of desires, we would have no reason to find fault with the dissolute.' —Epicurus
About Lethargy and Mendacity
- 'Moderation is the languor and indolence of the soul, as ambition is its ardor and activity.' —LA Rochefoucauld
- 'Self-denial surely means something far greater than some slight and insignificant lessening of our self-indulgences.' —James Hudson Taylor in Bible Studies
- 'There are people so proficient in embellishment that they cannot accept to be the lesser of anyone in their field or profession who has the gift of candid captivation. Hence their drawn weapon is mendacious indulgence.' —Isobel Bronte
- 'Such is the weakness of our nature, that when men are a little exalted in their condition they immediately conceive they have additional senses, and their capacities enlarged not only above other men, but above human comprehension itself.' —Richard Steele
- 'Without a sense of proportion there can be neither good taste nor genuine intelligence, nor perhaps moral integrity.' —Eric Hoffer
About Resisting Temptation
- 'It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptation.' —Walter Bagehot
- 'Blessed is he who has never been tempted; for he knows not the frailty of his rectitude.' —Christopher Morley
- 'The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.' —Oscar Wilde
- 'Resistance is always easier if you believe it likely you’ll get another chance another day, and they say that as you grow older temptation will avoid you.' —Gerald Hudson
- 'It is easy to have everything you want if you have learnt to do without the things you cannot get.' —Elbert Hubbard
Chef Gabrielle Hamilton on Idleness
Initially, Chef and restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton viewed her kitchen work as secondary to her innate creative writing ability. Having struggled through a series of restaurant jobs, Ms. Hamilton felt her dream validated by her acceptance into a writing program at a prestigious university. Still, she soon became disenchanted with the narcissistic gloom which seemed to pervade the department. She recounts:
"I could not find the fun or the urgency in the eventless and physically idle academic life. It was so lethargic, and impractical and luxurious. I adored reading and writing and having my brain crushed, but those soft, ghostly people lounging around the lounge, agonizing over their texts, endlessly theorizing over experiences they would never have, make me ache to break out of those leather chairs, to put my shoes and socks back on and get back into the kitchen, which I increasingly found practical and satisfying." —Gabrielle Hamilton in Blood, Bones and Butter: Education of a Reluctant Chef
Undoubtedly, the gritty, hands-on experience chronicled by Ms. Hamilton has found a far wider readership than has the work of the soul-obsessed academic questers she describes in her book.
The Pitfalls of Pampering: My Takeaway
At times, too much adulation can become an insidious hazard. During a TV interview, model and actress Cheryl Tieg admitted that, growing accustomed to her every whim being met, she caught herself thinking, where’s my limousine? Why is that paid help taking so long to get my cup of coffee? As a result, she consciously put a stop to her own escalating sense of privilege.
I conclude with two extracts that encompass both the perception of self-indulgence wrapped in myth and religious-philosophical ideals and that which is—in truth—a simplistic concept.
- 'In my present insistence on high standards you will see that there is less self-indulgence than resolve and application. I do not let the Christian monopolize the ideal of perfection. I have my own virtue, which I am constantly cultivating and refining by teaching myself not to tolerate in me or my surroundings anything but the exquisite.' —Andre Gide in Reflections on Literature and Morality
- 'The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence. When you're unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. You get to take yourself oh so very seriously.' —Tom Robbins in Jitterbug Perfume
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on July 01, 2014:
Thank you Manatita for your kind words. True, there are many interpretations about this trait.
manatita44 from london on July 01, 2014:
Excellent Hub and well presented with some lofty quotes to back it up.
A big one, Self-Indulgence and it's good that you gave differing explanations of this special trait. Many blessings to you and family.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on April 13, 2014:
Thank you Gilbert. Yes we all have our vices and like to spot them in others. The subject is quite complex and this hub took some while to compose. Once started I had to finish.
Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on April 12, 2014:
I liked your example, Colleen, of the kitchen cook who took a try at writing. She didn't care for the attitudes and faults of people she had to hang out with and returned back to the kitchen. I beg to differ for a good reason. No person on earth is going to stop her from writing if that is what she really wants to do. Strength and desire has to come from within. She felt more comfortable cooking. I'm probably a little self-indulgent.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on April 12, 2014:
Hi, Self discipline is admirable, but yes I also have those days when something has to give.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 12, 2014:
I have strict control in everything I do for most of the month and tend to stray for some days.