As long as I can remember, I have struggled with temptation. I remember when I was not yet in Kindergarten, and my mother sent me next door to open a can of tomatoes with our neighbors' fancy can opener. The neighbor told me as I left, "Make sure you don't stick your finger in the can." If she had only told me why, I might have listened. Some 45 years later, the memory of that incident remains as a centimeter long faded gash on the inside of my left index finger. Truth...if you tell me "Don't" and it is not followed with a reasonable explanation of why not to, I will do it, immediately! As a kid there was not a tree or rock in a four-block radius of our neighborhood that I had not scaled to the top of before I had completed 9 years. I am pretty sure, that a couple broken branches and a couple of falls knocked me unconscious or dazed me, more than once...and I am sure my parents never found out about those misadventures.
It is so easy to blame the devil for our disobedience, but truly temptation starts within us, and we are the only one that can tame it. The devil is so busy creating his own havoc, he doesn't need to jump in and join us in our shenanigans...although I am sure he finds us amusing.
The more I have contemplated on the power of temptation, the more aware I am of its prevalence and it's dominion over my life. I start a diet, temptation enters and the diet is over. I start a project, temptation distracts and the project sits there waiting. I plan to be patient, temptation permits me to irritable. I plan to save money, temptation encourages me it is OK to take a trip. I plan to be disciplined and focused on a task, and temptation sends me anywhere but towards completing that goal. Have you ever struggled to keep a secret? Temptation is your undoing. Have you ever opened a Christmas or birthday present before you were supposed to? I am pretty sure I am not the only one. Have you ever failed to finish a project for work or school on time? Not being disciplined starts with a temptation.
Temptation is as guilty of causing us to do the things we don't want to do as it is at keeping us from doing the things we do want to do. Any and every behavior that we do, that we didn’t want to do, starts as a temptation. Any and every behavior that we don't do, that we did want to do, starts as a temptation.
So how do we overcome our issues with temptation. The answer is quite simple-submit to discipline, however this is no easy feat to accomplish. Temptations start as thoughts which become feelings. Feelings create a desired action within us. Morals will evaluate those desired actions and will let us know this is not in line with who we are. However the seed of desire has been planted. According to Rick Warren, desires, turn into rational doubting, and we start arguing with our conscious about why in this particular case we can overlook our morals. He calls this step deception. We deceive ourselves, we convince ourselves what we want is OK, even though we know it is not...we lie to ourselves. Once we lie to ourselves disobedience is permitted. To overcome this we must not plant the seed of desire, or we must desire what is in line with our moral conscience and objectives. We must stop the temptation before it has any power. Self-control is accomplished when the ability to overcome temptation is mastered.
Every temptation starts as a selfish thought. We need to start paying attention to our thoughts, both our conscious thoughts and our subconscious thoughts. For example, if a pretty woman walks in the room and appears confident, we might say, "I don't like her." It is important to pay attention to that thought...because it will guide our behavior. However, we must be aware that there is something even deeper in our subconscious that creates that thought. It may be that we feel inadequate around her because she is beautiful and confident. It may be that at some point in time someone, who was beautiful and confident, harmed us and we have assigned mistrust to beautiful and confident people. There are several other possible reasons why you may have a reaction to that person. What is most important is that you examine what is your why, and then you address it. Do you need to work on self-esteem? Do you need to work on trust? Do you need to forgive?
Action Step: All of us struggle with pains and wounds from the past...some that others have inflicted on us, some that we have inflicted on others, and some that we have inflicted on ourselves. We must address them or they don't go away and they show up in awkward, unkind behavior that is not in line with who we want to be or who we say we are. We must examine not only our conscious mind, but more important our subconscious mind to understand the messages that are governing our thoughts, behaviors, and actions. The most important message that we need to tell ourselves is, "I AM strong enough, worthy enough, and wonderful enough to have good thoughts in my head and overcome the lies that disappoint and discourage me." We must also tell ourselves, "I am strong enough and wise enough and disciplined enough to overcome the temptations of my life." YES, YOU ARE!!!