Conquering Temptation

I wanted to share a scenario that came to my attention “once upon a time” in a land far far away — I asked the person if I might share it for the keen insight it gives into the nature of temptation and the value of spiritual friendship.

Here’s a paraphrase of the exchange that this person shared with me:

A friend called me the other morning and started telling me about how she was struggling with temptation, with having feelings for another man outside of her marriage. After she told me all about this person, I proceeded to tell her, “Soak yourself in Adoration, prayer, rosary, Reconciliation, etc. It’s a very normal temptation. I told her about Jesus being out in the desert, alone, and the devil preyed on Him; and he will prey on you. Then I said this is suffering and you have to fight it; live through it; pray through it; be faithful through it.” Then she said to me, “why is this happening to me? I never thought I would ever even consider the thought of cheating.” I said, “We all have to suffer, be tempted, and it’s just part of your walk.” She said, “Yea, I think it’s my walk and my bubble butt!” I said, “No your walk with Christ you NERD!, Your walk with Christ!!!” Now we can’t stop laughing…

What a beautiful treasure these two friends hold! Here are a few of the many gems I found embedded in this brief exchange:

1. Temptation can strike anyone at any time. No one is immune. This realization should make us humble, trusting less in our own goodness or power and more in God’s goodness and power.

2. Temptation comes to us under the guise of good, which makes it easier to justify than the lure of naked evil.

3.  Temptation flourishes in secrecy, but crumbles in the light of honest self-disclosure. All spiritual health requires what the desert Fathers called the ‘baring of thoughts,’ and especially of temptations, to a trusted friend or mentor. Every Christian should pray for a spiritual friendship, a trusted soul friend who can hear our deepest thoughts, encourage us and challenge us to greatness in Christ.  And laugh with us.

4. Temptation not only tests our basic commitments, but also offers us the chance to grow in virtue and cling more closely to Christ as we recognize our fragility and weakness.

5. Temptation often allures us with the false promise that breaking our vows will free us from struggle and suffering, but the truth is, after the initial euphoria of being “released,” the suffering we will bear after succumbing to temptation will be far worse. In addition, suffering for your infidelity lacks the heroic redemptive character that flows from struggling/suffering out of fidelity to (in this case) marriage.

6. Temptation is best confronted indirectly — not by fighting it head on, but by “soaking” oneself in relentless prayer and the grace that flows through the Sacraments. “For the battle belongs to the LORD” – 1 Samuel 17:47

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