Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Not All Temptations Are Equal



"OH MY GOSH I CANT RESIST!  I HAVE TO DO THIS!"

"I'm so going to regret this tomorrow...."

"It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission...."

"Only once......everybody does it.....nobody will know...." 

"At least I'll have fun on my way to hell...."

Perhaps you've thought these or other thoughts when facing temptation.  If you're like me, you've thought them and more.

Welcome to mortality and free agency.

But how do we deal with temptation, especially "addictive-type" temptation - those favorite sins - that catch us over and over and over again? (Often before we even are aware we're in trouble).

Well, I think I have an answer.

One of the main things we need to do in our personal lies is "be aware" of ourselves - how we are feeling, what we are thinking, how we are doing and much much more.

A major issue we see in patients in mental health (and humanity in gneral) is most people are simply riding the rollercoaster of life and are just "along for the ride" without ever stepping back and noticing what is going on with them personally.  

You need to KNOW you are on this
 They can be manic, but are simply experiencing mania, but aren't aware "I'm manic."  Or may be depressed, but aren't aware "I'm depressed."  It just creeps up on them. And they may struggle for a very long time with a problem, completely unaware that they have a problem or are experiencing a problem.  That's my job in mental health, to identify the problem, and then help them see it and understand it and find a solution to it.

So when it comes to temptation, one of the things we need to be aware of is when we are being temped.  As in cognitively identify "I'm facing a temptation right now." 

Usually when we face temptation, we're caught up in other things, may be struggling with something else and are not actively dealing with the the temptation.  We may recognize that we are facing a dilemma, but instead may be just rushing through life, and suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a problem that we know we shouldn't be in....but without having actually ever stepped back to stop, think, analyze, assess, plan and deal with the issue.

So what to do?

If you've never seen these - this is called a "Likert Scale."  We use them all the time in psychology.



They can also look like this:

0     1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10

or like this

Poor  Fair  Good Great Excellent

Or like about anything else you can come up with in terms of a scale to rate something.

So the first thing is to be aware we are facing temptation.

But fortunately - not all temptations are created equal.

There are some things you simply are not tempted to do.  Smoking meth simply may not be an issue for you. 

And the things you struggle with?  Well....if you were to rate your temptation on a scale of 0-10 with "0" being "This isn't even an issue" and a "10" being "I'm about to do this right now and have gone so far that stopping is pretty unlikely or going to be awkward and difficult..."   you may notice that you aren't always at a "0" or a "10."  In fact, you may be at a "1" at some point, and through a series of decisions and choices works your way up to a "10." 

But unfortunately, we often don't actually notice and become aware of the more challenging temptations until we are at a "9" or a "10" when avoiding it may become particularly difficult.  Or, we may identify any and all temptations as the same, no matter how hard or soft we are tempted, we recognize it simply as temptation, and we succumb.

Maybe 0-5 could be described as having our mental faculties, and the environment is mostly at play in the process, and a 6-10 to where you're actually rationalizing giving into temptation, with a 9 and a 10 being "flirting with temptation." 

So I 'm thinking that becoming actively, consciously, cognitively aware of temptation is a first step to avoiding it.  But by identifying how much we are being tempted we may be better able to avoid the latter issue described in the paragraph above where we simply succumb to any level of temptation with our favorite sins.

For example, when we are faced with a temptation, taking a moment to rate it and saying "I'd say I'm at about a 4 right now in terms of being tempted."  

Now wouldn't it be a shame to succumb to temptation at a "4"? 

But being aware of, say, being at a "4" can help you put together a plan to keep from progressing to a "6" or "8" and on up. 

But also putting together a plan on how to go from an "8" to say a "3" is just as critical.   Not just "how to go" but "how to effectively go" - you need a plan that works and that you know will work!  And maybe a backup plan after that.

No general would go to battle without a plan, and in the battle for your soul, you need a plan as well.

What your plan would be will vary depending on what you struggle with.  

In dealing with addictions for example, a plan such as "have a note in my wallet reminding me not to do drugs that I will see if I pull out my wallet out to buy meth" isn't likely to be very effective.  If you've reached the point where you're in the middle of a meth deal, a note in your wallet is going to be pretty impotent at that point.  Hopefully you aren't dealing with meth addiction, but I thought I would just use this as an example.

At any rate, in our faith we are taught to "Choose The Right."  But with our souls at stake, perhaps weighing the consequences as well as weighing the amount of temptations we face and planning on how to deal with it might be more effective than simply "Don't do anything stupid" or "Win!" for a battle plan.

These are just some thoughts I had today I thought I'd write down. 

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