Dealing with Temptation 1: Avoidance

In this life we are going to be tempted to do things that are physically, emotionally and spiritually harmful for us.  And in our contemporary American culture we are going to be tempted a lot.  How do we handle it?  This post is one of three planned to address this question.

If you’re like me you continually face temptations, large and small.  I often feel tempted to eat poorly, to drink too much, or to sleep in when I want to get up and exercise.  These may not be the most serious temptations I face, but they do affect my physical health, which is important to me.  For the purpose of these essays, I will stick to those involving eating and drinking because I believe many people struggle in these areas too.  However, the principles are general and can be applied to other temptations.

Fast food, rich foods, cookies, candy, desserts, big portions, soda, energy drinks, and alcohol surround us in America today.  It’s very hard to escape from the pervasive attempts to sell us foods and beverages that are harmful for us.  And it can be very hard to resist making poor choices, especially when we’re stressed and short on time (as many of us are).  Often times our resistance proves futile as we fail over and over again.

Personally, I find avoidance to be the most powerful method of dealing with those temptations where I am at my weakest.  That is, if I can avoid being tempted in the first place, there is zero chance I will succumb to it.  No temptation = no failure.  So avoidance is my #1 strategy for temptations about which I have major concerns.  Why risk failure if there is a better way to accomplish my goal?

My avoidance strategy calls for me to eliminate either the environmental cues of temptation, or the opportunity to actually fall into it, or both.  I do this two ways.  One is to stay away from environments where I will be tempted.  For example, I try not to even go into one of the fast food burger chains when I’m hungry, because it is quite likely I will order a burger and fries, even if I had intended to get a salad.  Yes they have some healthy options, but if I walk in, I’m probably going to take the unhealthy stuff.  The environmental cues, especially the smells, are too strong.  (And the staff is trained to supply their own cues: Want fries with that?  Can I supersize that for you?)

I’m sure you can think of places that you may wish to avoid for your own health.  Don’t sit down in a bar if you’re trying to quit drinking.  Don’t walk down the cookie aisle in the supermarket if you’re trying not to buy sweets.

But what about when you’re in your own living space?  You can’t just avoid your workplace or home, and these may be where most of your temptations lie.  True, but you can alter or restructure your “micro-environment” or “personal territory” at work and at home, which is my second way of practicing avoidance.

For me, this is simply keeping cookies, candy and ice cream out of the house except for special occasions.  I have a big sweet tooth.  If I see a treat, I’m going to have a hard time not eating it.  When candy or other sweet treats are in the cupboard, I often have just “one more” until I’ve had way too many.  However, if there is no ice cream in the freezer, I won’t be eating ice cream.  My wife doesn’t have this issue, but she helps me in my weakness.  If she buys chocolate for herself, she just keeps it to herself (and hides it somewhere), which is fine with me.

At work, my assistant likes to keep a full candy dish around.  Since she sits right outside of my office there is no avoiding it.  But, at my request, she has put it out of sight.  Yes I do know it’s there (in a drawer), but reducing the visual cue has helped me avoid a lot of candy that I otherwise would have consumed.

This is a pretty simple but pretty powerful concept, and these are just a couple of examples of a potentially big personal strategy – don’t put yourself at risk if you don’t have to.  Most of us could make many positive changes in our personal territories, which would be of great help to us in living the lives we desire.  Sometimes, however, individuals don’t like this approach.  I think because it requires they admit their weaknesses.  Perhaps they feel like they should be stronger, better able to resist.  Don’t be like that.  Admitting our weakness is the secret to overcoming it.  Knowing Jesus enables us, and prompts us, to admit our weakness.  It’s okay; we are all weak.

Now, over time, I have found that I am less subject to some of these temptations and better able to resist as needed.  So avoidance does not necessarily have to be a long-term strategy, but when you are really struggling, it’s a good approach.  Pray and ask God to show you where you are still to weak to effectively resist temptation and rather should focus on avoiding it.

Comments

  1. William says:

    Thanks Pete! Avoidance works for some, but others justify everything. For example, its easy to be upset these days and blame a situation on someone else – than taking responsibility. But when a situation is used to justify a behavior – that’s another of Satan’s traps. Remember, he is here just to confuse us into thinking we deserve more than we have… Then, sin feels good and simply justified. At the end of the day, God created us to naturally be drawn to Him (Godhead) and we can loose so much in just one “non-avoidance” if we forget this is truly a daily battle. It takes diligence to avoid the daily attacks from Satan – So, stay connected everyday, even if its just a hamburger, bill-board, cookie, cigarette, magazine, or whatever. PRAY TO THE FATHER – Jesus is waiting to connect with you and help you thru every harmful situation.

  2. Peter Weiss says:

    Thanks William. I am presuming that readers of this blog do NOT want to justify harmful behavior, although we can all slip into that trap. Prayer, of course, is essential.

Trackbacks

  1. […] In this life we are going to be tempted to do things that are physically, emotionally and spiritually harmful for us. And in our contemporary American culture we are going to be tempted a lot. How do we handle it? This post is the second of three posts planned to address this question. See Part 1 here. […]

  2. […] a lot. How do we handle it? This post is the last of three planned to address this question. See Part 1 “Avoidance” here and Part 2 “Resistance” […]