But why would these gods of baseball, these men who were, without artificial help, dominating their respective leagues, turn to steroids? It has been suggested that Bonds was jealous of the national frenzy around the Maguire-Sosa home run race in 1998 and that Rodriguez felt the pressure of living up to the expectations generated by his unprecedented contract. Fair enough. But I think that things go deeper than that.
St. Augustine spoke of “concupiscent desire,” by which he meant a perversion of the will. We have, Augustine said, been wired for God (“Lord, you have made us for yourself”), and therefore, nothing in this world will ever be able finally to satisfy us (“our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”). When we hook our infinite desire for God onto something less than God–pleasure, money, power, success, honor, victory–we fall into a perverted and ultimately self-destructive pattern.
When money isn’t enough (and it never is), we convince ourselves we need more and more of it; when honor isn’t enough (and it never is), we seek honor desperately, obsessively; when athletic success isn’t enough (and it never is), we will go to any extreme to assure more and more of it.
This awful and frustrating rhythm, which Augustine called “concupiscent,” we would call today “addictive.” Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez were not addicted to steroids per se; they were addicted to success, and we know this because they were at the pinnacle of success and still didn’t think it was enough.
One of the most liberating and salutary things that we can know is that we are not meant to be perfectly happy in this life. When we convince ourselves otherwise, we, necessarily, fall into one or more forms of addiction. Bonds and Rodriguez still felt, at the height of their success, a nagging sense of incompleteness. That was not an invitation to take desperate measures; it was the invasion of grace.
As Lent nears its end, let your incompleteness be filled by God and not by any of the false, unsatisfying substitutes. “