Temptation

Temptation is a topic seldom broached in our post-modern culture, though it may be tolerated if divorced from such antiquated concepts as sin.

A temptation to violate one’s diet or to skip going to the gym could easily fit into everyday conversation.

However, the temptations that have the most potential to destroy our souls are often considered outmoded, at best. Bringing up these temptations is not unlike mentioning the devil – not to be done in polite company.

Doing so is likely to result in being considered a naive simpleton for believing in such things. Or, conversely, being considered the source of evil in the world for being “judgmental” and thereby inducing guilt in others unnecessarily.

Given that I often find myself encountering temptation in surprising ways, I thought I might post some reflections – in the event that anyone cares to read them.  (I shall not be shocked if no one does.)

I do not intend to judge anyone, except perhaps myself, with these musings – and even myself rather gently.

And I’m going to skip over the obvious ones, such lying, stealing, coveting, disobeying and enticements of the flesh.

Most people who have even a modicum of interest in the topic are likely to already be well-versed in these.

+++

I have always been a rather sensitive person, I think. As with most personality traits, I probably came to be this way through some inexplicable interaction of nature and nurture.

There is nothing wrong with being sensitive, of course, and it has both its functional and dysfunctional aspects.

Sensitivity, for example, can translate into empathy and compassion for others. On the other hand, it can also result in easily hurt feelings.

Hence, I write this evening about the temptation to have hurt feelings.

What’s the big deal about having hurt feelings? Isn’t that normal?

I will explain.

I experienced this temptation just the other night. Someone dear to me sent me an email, bowing out of a routine social commitment with me.

The reason given was that some other experiences had crowded the weekend and an evening “off” was needed.

Immediately, my sensitivity reactor was triggered and a combination of hurt feelings and angry thoughts began to flood my mind.

Since when was a conversation with me so stressful that time off was needed? My mind was abuzz with other perceived slights, as well as all of the times that I hadn’t bowed out despite my own illness or fatigue.

And something in me desperately wanted to express these hurt feelings, even if only to hint at them.

Temptation is born.

However, the temptation wasn’t just to strike back in some subtle or not-so-subtle fashion.

The true temptation, I believe, lie in the hurt feelings themselves. While this may be obvious to others – and even obvious to me when I see it in others – at the moment of being triggered, it is far from obvious.

It was, after all, about my ego – and my ego doesn’t like to admit its involvement when it is busy blaming others.

How could my friend not want to talk to me? How had I become so unimportant? Blah, blah, blah…

Yup, ego all the way.

Thankfully, God saved me from myself – as He so often does. Not only did He show me that I was being tempted, He helped me see how easily I could be freed of it.

All it took was a bit of compassion.

Instead of thinking about myself, He turned my heart to consider my friend who apparently needed a rest from activity.

I imagined my friend feeling very tired, perhaps ill or just overwhelmed – and then wrote the response of reassurance about how important it is that we take care of ourselves.

Without any effort to suppress them, the hurt feelings simply vanished into thin air.

The compassion that replaced them left me feeling a warm and quiet joy. All is well.

+++

It was narrow escape. How easily I could have slipped into brooding and resentment, even if I tried to convince myself that this was an overreaction.

How readily I might have nursed the wound, repeating my story of hurt feelings to another, in an effort to garner validation and sympathy.

And how ridiculous that would have been.

But more than ridiculous, it would have been spiritually toxic  – not only to me, but to all who fell into the path of the negative energy I was generating.

My friend would have sensed it at some point, even if I suppressed my initial reaction. Anyone with whom I shared my grievance would certainly have been affected.

And, quite probably, a whole host of other people would be caught in the ripples, unbeknownst to me.

+++

It is a shame that people so seldom talk about temptation these days.

It is, I think, a great gift to discover temptation nipping at one’s soul. Recognizing the monster, we can then turn our hearts Godward and surely the grace we need will be given.

Perhaps, God willing, I shall write a bit more about temptation…

All glory and praise to our Savior.

3 thoughts on “Temptation

  1. albert

    I started off on a detailed response (which I had thought about for a while and eventually could see how to present it in all its complexity– my temptation!), but as I tried to re-word a particularly sensitive part, the whole thing disappeared.

    Was I saved from yet another ego ride? Is it a stretch, Mary, to think that my situation was similar to yours, except that instead of hurt feelings I was operating on the self-satisfaction of identifying subtle points that might amplify your analysis? Or am I starting to see temptation everywhere, even. In the simplest of interactions. (I think I am, but I’m not sure whether that is a good sign or a dangerous one.)

    I’m coming back later to try to sort this out.

  2. mary Post author

    As always, I welcome your comments, Al.

    It IS a challenge for some of us to be ever-watchful without becoming obsessive. 🙂

    While temptations, real or imagined, may seem to surround us at times, we mustn’t forget that we are also surrounded by grace. Therefore, I do not think it important to stress about the temptations but just note them and keep our eyes turned to the One who is always there to help us.

    For example, I could look at what I just wrote and lament – “Oh, there’s that ego of mine exerting itself again! Who am I to think I have any advice to give to Al or anyone else?”

    There is likely some truth in that, i.e. I am not so completely purified that my ego doesn’t intrude on some of my more virtuous motives. Yup, I’m a mixture of the holy and the unholy – and I know I cannot correct this state of affairs on my own.

    So I keep plugging away at it, trusting God to continue to do His work in me. Or at least I try to…weak creature that I am.

  3. albert

    Wise words. Especially, “just note them and keep our eyes turned to the One who…” My friend Fr. Martin has told me this off and on. It helps to keep hearing it.

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