The Weekly Dream: Yield Not To Temptation”: Self-Control and Temptation, A Question of Character
“The Devil Made Me Do It”
“Why is everything that’s supposed to be bad, make me feel so good?”
-Kanye West “Addiction”
Why is faithfulness so rare? Why is it so hard to do the right thing? Why is it difficult to do what we are supposed to, when we are supposed to do it? Why does it feel so good to give in to temptation? In a “do what feels good culture” where Self and instant gratification is king, I cannot help but wonder, has the world always been this way?
As I have grown older, I have realized that being responsible is not always fun, and at times, exercising self-control is even less enjoyable. Yet, impulse control is a necessary evil. Restraint is a sign of maturity. As we matriculate from infancy to adulthood, we learn the proper time, place, and behavior for numerous situations. We learn that we cannot necessarily do what we want to do. We learn of things called consequences. Truly, all law and civilization is built upon this notion of self-government. The absence of self-government on a wide scale is hedonism and anarchy.
Does Temptation Have A Purpose?
However, there are countless individuals who live daily in personal anarchy. Their inner world is in ruins because they have no rule over their thoughts, words, emotions, or actions. When I encounter these individuals, I first try to limit my dealings with them and protect myself because they are capable of doing anything. Next, I begin to wonder how did they get this way? I believe a large part of it comes from how they handled temptation. Now, I am not talking about harmless temptations, like chocolate or a favorite desert when you are dieting, but those of a graver, more insidious nature. The kind that has the potential to wreak havoc in our personal lives.
Temptation as defined by Webster is “to entice to do wrong for the promise of pleasure or gain. A test or trial.” Temptation can come from various sources: boredom, greed, curiosity, lack of vision or conviction, and/or short-sightedness.
However, the temptation itself is not evil, it is a test, and tests are amoral. Temptation is nothing but a mirror that highlights weaknesses and character flaws. Like fire, it shows what we are really like underneath, and it is our response to the test that makes the difference.
For Every Action There is A Reaction
Every religion teaches self-denial and self-control. Why? First, because temptation is a Trojan Horse. It looks harmless and appealing at first, but ultimately has tragic repercussions. Every time we give in to temptation, we nurse a weakness. It is never good to indulge a weakness because it forms a habit, and a habit grows to an addiction, and addiction to the wrong thing ultimately ends in destruction in that area.
Second, you lose a piece of yourself every time you succumb. Yielding to temptation compromises your integrity with yourself and others. How can you trust yourself to do the right thing if you constantly make the wrong decision? You sacrifice your control in the situation. You will never reach your full potential until you master the difficult, bumpy areas of your character.
What happens is that individuals who indulge in this behavior begin to justify their lack of self control, and normally with lame excuses: “Everybody else was doing it. This won’t hurt anybody. It just happened, I was in the moment. I am grown, I can do what I want to do.” Displacing blame is not maturity, it is what children do. It is a way to deal with guilt or shame. We do not exist in a vacuum. And there are no such things as victimless crimes. Our actions affect others, and the fruits of our bad decisions are often eaten by those around us.
Resistance 101: Breakin Old Habits is so hard to do…
What can we do to give us an edge in this battle for self-control? The first thing that we can do is know what we are about. You must know yourself in order to be true to yourself. Know where you are going, and what decisions are consistent with this objective. It also means that you honestly assess your problem areas and head them off. This means removing the instrument of temptation from around you. If you are a smoker, get rid of all your lighters and cigarettes. Do not frequent those environments where smoking will occur. Find other ways to deal with the situations that made you want to smoke. This will save you from having to struggle within yourself. A willingness to remove your self from those situations and people are key, because we tend to attract things that make it easier to for the weakness to survive.
Secondly, be grateful for what you have. Temptation is closely related to greed in that you have what you need, but you want more and are willing to compromise your morals to get it. The grass is not necessarily greener. Just as the desire or temptation came, if you do not do anything with it, it will leave. Do not even give the temptation your attention in the form of curiosity. Don’t feel like you are missing out, because you are not. You must walk your own path and not anyone else’s.
Thirdly, try to make doing good as attractive as doing wrong. This can be accomplished by looking at the real costs and benefits associated with each action. What is the real reward for doing the right thing? What is the worse case scenario for giving in to the temptation and is it worth it? Is this the proper reaction to this situation?
If you do fall, do not lay there. Maturity is accountability. Until you master this test, you will continue to make the same mistakes and it will hinder you from growing and moving on. Admit you have made a mistake and attack it until you master it.
Vince Lombardi said it best, “It is not whether you get knocked down, but whether you get back up that matters.”
Giving in to temptation does not make you a bad person. It is the habit of nursing unhealthy and unprofitable behavior that is the problem because it begins to harden our heart and conscience. Making a choice is not a one-time thing. Everyday, we must make the choice anew to do good and not evil; to shun those things that would take us from our destiny. Consistency in thought, word, and deed is what forges our character, irregardless of who or what is around.
Every great leader had to overcome temptation before they could progress to a higher level level. They had the choice to pursue a higher calling, to seek the greater good or satisfy their own selfish desires. Temptation always precedes greatness because if you cannot master yourself, how can you ever achieve your destiny? How will you behave when the stakes are high and others are counting on you? A person without self-control is like a city without walls, with no defense from external and adverse forces.
If you are not totally committed to your course at the outset, there can be no success, only defeat. We are called to meet the challenge, rise above and persevere; that is where the reward is. Let temptation be the stage that showcases your ability to come through in the clutch. Let it demonstrate your unwavering devotion to excellence and moral uprightness. In this world, there is only one thing that you can always control, and that is yourself.
Nothing is worth your integrity and your piece of mind.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas