Tuesday, June 22, 2010

You cannot avoid temptation by giving into it!

Many people have the false notion about sinful activity that a desire to commit sin starts small and eventually builds and builds until it is no longer possible to control it. They believe the only way to reduce temptation is to give into it. Oscar Wilde said "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it..." But this is false. In fact, the opposite is true.

Giving into temptation in fact makes us more vulnerable to it. Perhaps for a very short period of time afterwards, we do not have the desire to sin. But our desire to sin will come back sooner and stronger than before. This will continue until the sin rules our lives. We know this from experience.

Look at porn for example. Usually people will start off small, perhaps looking at Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. Then they go to lingerie magazines, and eventually to softcore porn like Playboy. This eventually no longer satisfies their appetite, so they start watching videos, which eventually get more and more extreme. This is the finding of psychologists who have studied the issue. Those who do this begin with milder material very infrequently and eventually end up abusing very explicit content several times a day. Eventually it takes over their lives.

The desire to be involved with this vice does not diminish through exposure but rather increases. Psychologists who work with sex addicts advise them to abstain completely from sex for several months and then to introduce normal, regular sexual activity. People with strong temptations are not advised to seek fulfillment to their temptation as they would normally do.

The same can be said for things like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, etc. There is no way to "reduce" these addictions. They must be simply ended.

But this not only applies to addictions, but to any sinful activity or behavior. Look at laziness for example. I've had my own struggles with laziness. If I don't have a job, sometimes I will stay up really late, and the next morning crawl out of bed around 11am. Even though I had plenty of sleep, I may go and watch TV while I eat. After watching TV for some time, I do not feel motivated to do anything else, so I continue to watch. I might go outside for a little while, but later I am not motivated to cook supper. It seems laziness simply leads to more laziness. On the other hand, if I get up on time, get a shower, get ready, do the dishes, etc. then I am generally motivated to keep going and accomplishing more.

I also think sins interact with each other. The more we give into laziness, the more prone to lust we are. The more we give into lust and laziness, the more likely we are to be irritable and angry at people around us.

It is important therefore to avoid giving into temptation and to avoid near occassions of sin. In other words, don't put yourself in danger of committing a sin. For example, if you are prone to laziness, don't get out of bed and go directly to the television and sit there. This will only make it more difficult to avoid laziness. The best time to avoid sinning is at the beginning. Sometimes we feel strong and try to come as close to sinning as we can without actually doing it. But rarely does this end well. Usually we end up committing the sin anyway.

I remember a saint one time said that the best time to avoid sin is at its earliest stages. We are not meant to be heroes when it comes to avoiding sin, we are meant to be cowards. In other words, at the first sight of sin, turn around and run in the other direction. We are not supposed to be brave and pull out a big sword and fight this evil mono e mono. Run away from sin. By running away, you are not a coward, because you are bravely going on the path of righteousness. The coward is the one who pretends he is avoiding evil, while knowing full well that his actions are leading him there. He is a coward because he is not brave enough to denounce sin, rather he justifies it.

Trust in God, and sin no more.

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