Is There a Tiny Puritan Living in Your Head? Tell Him to Get Lost.

God has set a feast for us in the world, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about savoring it.

I am convinced that most of us have a Tiny Puritan who lives in our heads. He sees all pleasure as temptation. He thinks the safest way to stay morally pure is to be chronically wary of one’s own enjoyment. When we find ourselves enjoying something (be it a particularly overripe peach, an amazing piece of music, or a first kiss), he furrows his brows, grumbling, “Sinner! Be careful! You might get carried away!” The Tiny Puritan is a nuisance, but we’re afraid to get rid of him, because we really do want to be good.

The Tiny Puritan believes all pleasures are guilty pleasures. Did you enjoy that movie? The Tiny Puritan suggests you could/should be doing something more productive or spiritual. Did you love those donuts? The Tiny Puritan suggests that you are a glutton.

We all handle the Tiny Puritan in our own special way. Some people learn early in life to lock the Tiny Puritan in a box and bury him somewhere deep in their subconscious, boldly enjoying pleasures both innocent and salacious. Some of us try to bargain with the Tiny Puritan, enjoying some small pleasures, but not without being flattened slightly by his derisive scoff. We end up trying to follow all the Puritan’s demanding rules, just so he’ll shut up.

It reminds me of one of my favorite films: Babette’s Feast. The 1980s Danish film follows the life of two sisters (Martine and Filippa), the children of a sincere but austere Lutheran pastor, who live a strict and pleasureless life on a barren and remote coast of Jutland. Each, in her turn, falls in love but turns the suitor down out of a misguided sense of duty and piety. They justify their self-denial as a triumph over worldly temptation, but regret haunts their quiet moments. …

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