We’re aware of the hurt our betrayal will cause. We understand that acting in our own interests will have consequences for the common good. We know, for example, how uncontrolled drinking and drug use can hurt us and devastate those we love. But we still want to. We want the momentary rush, the instant gratification. We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that we can stay in control. We’ve mastered the art of rationalizing what we shouldn’t do and justifying the consequences.
Temptation is older than sin and the mother of shame. It’s real for all of us. Jesus was “tempted” by Satan: whether to act like God for the good of his beloved humanity – or act “human,” using his wisdom & gifts for his own profit. Jesus does the right thing.
Four approaches to dealing with those things we know are wrong but have trouble resisting: Name the temptation: Identifying clearly what it is we are tempted to do. Be specific so that we can deal with the moral dilemma with focus.
Name the tempter: Who or what is the force, the personality, the will outside us that is making an illegitimate claim on us? Another way of putting this is to unmask the delusion under which you are operating. You may justify your petty embezzlement from your thankless job because you are using the money to pay medical bills for your sick mother, or you are putting your child through college, or you are contributing to charity. The delusion is your good end. To unmask it is to realize that you are stealing.
Practice resistance. Virtue is a practice; it is a habit, the consistent practice of certain behaviors based upon certain beliefs. So what do we believe in the depth of our hearts? What do we want our lives to mean? What kind of a man or woman do we want to be? The answers to these questions are the beginning of resistance.
Call for help. Relying on one’s own strength and understanding in the matter of temptation, no matter how spiritually alert one is, is a recipe for disaster. We must confide in a priest, friend, colleague or spiritual director and make time in our lives for prayer, letting ourselves experience the grace that God constantly offers.
Lent challenges us to take on the temptations that make us less than the people God made us to be. May this Lent be a “desert” experience like the one Jesus experiences, in which we refocus our lives on the things of God.