The subject of temptation is a fascinating one to me. As people we are always tempted with something. Normally when the word temptation is used it has to do with a form of the forbidden. For instance if I commit to fasting for a certain amount of time, during that period I will at some point be tempted to eat. I may be on day 3 of a 10 day fast for instance, and all of a sudden it’s free pizza day at work. I can smell it, my stomach is grumbling and my body is craving the cheese and sauce. Now what?
First let’s first define temptation. I didn’t search the dictionary, but for the sake of this post, we will define temptation as: a desire to do or partake in something that is at least temporarily forbidden. (I.e. food when fasting) It is the compromise of the highest form of original intention, infecting personal character and integrity. The core of these temptations stem from three areas: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. No temptation will exist without at least one of these at play. Examples:
Lust of the flesh – You know you got a lady or a man – yet you feel tempted to flirt or allow yourself to be flirted with by that attractive person you see at the mall.
Lust of the eyes – While at the same mall you see that outfit that you think is hot. But you know you don’t need that outfit. Furthermore, if you spend that money, you will put yourself behind the 8 ball and it will cost you more than the price of the outfit later.
Pride of Life – Driving from the mall a car cuts you off as you turn to approach the exit. You know the best thing to do is turn the page and be thankful there was no accident. Walk away. But something inside says you should give that fool a piece of your mind.
These are just some general examples. We are constantly bombarded with temptations through life’s experiences as we just covered. We are also tempted through media and advertisement. Even the way your local grocery store shelves its products is a way to tempt you to spend more money on the most expensive products.
I am learning that what we do with temptation is what makes or breaks us in daily life. Do we face temptation head on or do we slide backwards into its cunning and deceptive ways? Recognizing temptation is the first key. So often we are bombarded with images and situations, I’m not sure we realize how much we face on the day to day.
The best way to deal with temptation is to confront it head on. By that I mean we shouldn’t play ourselves into acting like we aren’t tempted when we really are. If you are tempted to do something, just admit it. Its not a sign of weakness but of strength to face the facts of self evaluation. How many times have we put ourselves in bad situations because we were in denial about what was going on inside our hearts? Only to find later we are filled with regrets of personal failings. Once we face the reality of what is tempting us, next decide what to do about it. If we take immediate action, we are far more likely to overcome that temptation. If we allow the imagination to fester and permeate our psyche, we are more likely to fall into said temptation. Excuse me for putting it this way, but temptation is a subtle mother-fucker! And you can’t be pussying around with it either! It has to be handled and dealt with head on or it will get you caught up with the quickness.
For each person it’s important to know what it is you really want out of life. What is the level of happiness you want to achieve? What kind of house do you want to live in? How healthy would you like to be and what kind of body do you want to have? What kind of relationships do you want with your significant other, family and friends? What kind of impact would you like to make in this life? What do you need to do to make that impact? What tenancies and weaknesses do you have that would prevent you from living your best life. How far are you willing to go to maximize your potential and live your best life? Answer these questions and you are on your way to living life in a real way.
There is no shame in being tempted. Jesus himself was tempted. It will be an ongoing happening for the rest of our lives. The man/woman of the highest level of integrity will recognize self tendencies and take appropriate action in order to ensure that life is lived with the greatest amount of freedom without the constant weight of consequences from bad decisions. If our eyes are wide open to who we are and what is before us, we can use temptation and our success/failings as a barometer to measure personal growth. The thing about temptation is this – being tempted never made anyone do anything they didn’t want to do. No matter what temptations we face in life, we always retain the final rights of choice. To not recognize temptation sets us up to merely fall over and over again into cycles of failure. Understanding and self- knowing will help us make the right choices that we are willing to live with.
Whatever you do with temptation is up to you. Just keep your eyes open and take responsibility for what happens.