Friday, February 26, 2016

Resisting Temptation

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Tonight, I'm supposed to be talking about resisting temptation. Unfortunately, I still haven't really figured this one out for myself yet, so this is unlikely to be a lengthy entry. That said, I'll share with you some of my thoughts. I don't think I'm going to have any particular format here, with subheaders and such. Perhaps, this will be more of an exploratory entry.

So, first off, I'm just going to say that both prayer and fasting are excellent places to start when it comes to resisting temptation. I think they're both the starting and ending places, with a whole lot of other stuff in between. I say both starting and ending because I think when you start, they are excellent weapons to help with your inner transformation, and I think when you end, these are things you're going to want to do anyway.

What's really the end goal here? Why do we even care about resisting temptation? The answer, I think, is love for God. That always has to be our starting point, the directive that informs everything else. We have this phrase, "first things first," and it makes a lot of sense. When you do things in the right order, things come out the way they're meant to. If you build a building, you start with the foundation. So it is with all things. When you learn mathematics, you need the foundational understanding of the basic operations before you can move into more complex matters.

Likewise is it with morality, with righteousness. You must place those things that are most important, and everything else will follow from it. Consider authority. A child must first love its parents before it should obey them. Otherwise, it simply will not obey them. If fear is the motivating factor, then they might obey for a while, but eventually will rise up in rebellion. Authority, if it is to be obeyed, must be loved and respected, and this requires the authority figure to serve those whom it expects to obey.

Love is the foundational principle, and love of God is the first of all loves. When you have this, all righteousness should follow. This is why prayer and fasting aid in our inner transformation, because through prayer we grow in our love for God, and through fasting we grow in our desire for Him. Once our love for God is perfected, we will pray and fast freely, because we love.

So, ultimately, this is what, I think, will help us to resist temptation: love for God. After all, is it not the deep, abiding love of a husband for his wife, or a wife for her husband, that motivates each of them to do all they can to please the other, and to do whatever it takes to avoid displeasing them? So let this be our basic principle: love for God. Jesus even points to this during His final temptation in the desert, when He says, "The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve." (Matthew 4:[10].)

How do we foster love for God? Well, prayer and fasting (communication and the expression of desire), for starters. We should also inform our consciences according to the teachings of the Church, and through the reading of Scripture, through whom and through which God communicates His wisdom. For, in order to fall in love with God, you must first come to know Him. So, educate yourself, immerse yourself in His words. Consider Jesus' own words when He was tempted: "Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:[4].)

What else does Jesus say? "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." (Matthew 4:[7]). So, here we come to another excellent strategy for resisting temptation: don't place yourself in situations you know will tempt you. If you pray the Our Father, ever, you should understand that at the end of the prayer, you're asking God to "lead us not into temptation." So, if you're going to ask God to do His part to keep you holy, you should be willing to do your part, as well. He won't tempt you, you don't tempt Him. Capiche?

I think this leads into an important part of resisting temptation: help. We can usually feel when we're moving in a direction that leads to sin. A lot of times, when I'm feeling that way, I try to be around people who can help me resist such urges. For those more serious sins, the pernicious ones that are very much like an addiction, it also helps to have an accountability partner, someone you can confide in, and who can coach you, without judgment. Spiritual advisors fill this role very well, and we would all do well to seek one out.

I'm not really one for "mental tricks" to helping avoid temptation. For one, I've never really been good at them, and for two, I feel like it's more therapeutic to address a problem head on, than to sidestep it. That said, I don't want to put down any success people have had with such things. The avoidance of sin is a good thing to accomplish, however you do so.

I think that's really all I have to say on the matter. If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments section below!

God bless!

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