Most Christians are familiar with the part in the Lord’s Prayer that says: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. I guess even Christ knew that due to our fallible human nature, it is quite difficult for us to fight temptation and resist it. Far better to avoid it all together. Temptation has been around since time existed, and if we’ve learned anything from history and our first parents, we can see from the way Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden of Eden, they didn’t fare too well in handling their first temptation.
Very often we underestimate the alluring power of temptation and overestimate the diminishing power of our willpower. But research has shown time and time again that what we think we will do and what we really do in moments of temptation vary considerably, and not always for the better.
When two heterosexual adults find themselves alone in a cosy hotel room and after a couple glasses of sweet red wine and lots of laughter, they both realize where this sort of intimacy might be headed. Soon they are kissing passionately and ripping each other’s clothes off quickly. One small problem. They don’t have a condom. So what happens next?
Your guess is as good as mine. But they have the following options:
A. Ask her when last she checked her HIV status or how many people she has been with since her last test?
B. Assure her that he doesn’t have HIV, as he checked just last month.
C. Take a risk of going out to a pharmacy to buy her condom and completely ruin the mood.
D. Limit themselves to just kissing and smooching but resist going the whole nine yards.
E. Take a chance.
Now most people reading this, would assume that any decent thinking guy would pick Option C or D. But in reality that is hardly ever the case. This is because what we logically think we would do in such emotionally charged moments rarely happens soon as our emotions are involved. We kind of discount the risks and accentuate the immediate pleasure. Emotions eat logic for breakfast. And so temptation wins our willpower more often than not. Now someone (he or her) will worry and fret for the next 3 months over their HIV status.
The same scenario plays out when a government official is offered a bribe or business-man such as myself is given an opportunity to cheat when there’s no risk of anyone ever knowing except of course our inner conscience. It also happens when we find ourselves in situations when everyone else is doing the wrong thing and it would make us quite unpopular and out of place to try being Mr. Right.
Only if you are truly like Christ himself, though being tempted by Satan high up on the mountain without the watchful eyes of either his disciples or the Pharisees, yet resisted and prevailed, then more grease to your elbow!
But if you’re not quite there yet, like the rest of us mere mortals, how then how in the world do you resist temptation? Well there are quite a number of ways to deal with everyday temptations:
1. Flight not fight is often the best response. Don’t try and resist temptation, rather avoid it completely. Don’t put yourself in a compromising situation where you could find your willpower being unduly tested. If you’re trying to quit smoking, hanging with your smoker friends every evening after work isn’t going to make your willpower any stronger. If you’re trying to lose weight, having chocolate cake in your fridge isn’t helping matters either. If you have a tendency to be a paedophile, working in a kindergaten isn’t the best way to build your resistance.
2. If you can’t avoid temptation all together, then simply replace one temptation with another. Can’t stop eating while watching Telemundo? Replace the can of Pringles with grapes or tangerines instead. Replace cigarettes with an electronic cigarette pen instead that simulates the experience without the guilt and health risks. Feel the need to have sex frequently? Find a partner that feels the same way and stick to each other like a house on fire.
3. Recognize that willpower is a muscle, and can only be pushed to a certain limit. So take precautionary measures and like the Boys Scouts motto says: Be Prepared. Don’t assume you are some sort of Super-hero with unlimited willpower or presume to be like Jesus with the highest standards of holiness just because you passed your First Holy Communion exams. If you think you’re going to be tempted to engage in sexual intercourse during your visit to that sexy friend of yours, have a condom handy just in case or go along with a friend. If you think you cannot avoid smoking when surrounded with friends, go with an accountability partner who will not allow you to indulge- could be your spouse or friend or just take your electronic cigarette along.
4. Make a public announcement. Publicly declare your stance on a certain subject matter, and you’ll find yourself striving to maintain that image. Human beings generally operate by the Law of Consistency, this means we tend to want to remain consistent in our thoughts, words and deeds especially when our words and deeds are publicized and now general public knowledge. The pain we associate with being found out to be inconsistent with the values we have pronounced, often proves to act as an internal compass and keeps us on the straight and narrow. So ask for help if you need it. Not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong.
So there you have it, four different ways to maybe not only avoid temptation but also the guilt associated with failing to live up to our own standards and promises. Realize that how you do one thing, is how you do everything. And a lack of control in even one area of your life can spill-over to other areas of your life. Likewise your ability to show willpower in one area of your life can also lead to same exemplary behaviour in other areas. So be on guard and again: Be Prepared!
Here are four questions you might want to answer:
1. What was your answer to the question in the hotel room scenario?
2. Do you feel tempted to eat when the whole family was supposed to be fasting?
3. Have you ever been tempted to do wrong and the only thing stopping you is the knowledge that you couldn’t possibly forgive yourself after succumbing to temptation?
4. How do you personally deal with life’s temptations?
Please share your answers, you never know who you might be helping!