Tuesday, August 3

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Avoiding temptation

You understand me when I say that overcoming urges, in the moment they occur, is really, really, really hard. Most of the time I don't even think it's possible. The promise of it feeling so good drowns my mind, and my brain literally changes gears and I stop thinking - only wanting, desiring, feeling. Trying a bunch of methods to get rid of it really doesn't come to mind.

That is the absolute worst spot to be in - where I'm on the brink of sin and surrounded by temptation. Stand there enough times, and I definitely fall in. And then the next time I fall deeper and deeper.

Which brings me to the next issue - understanding urges and trying to avoid situations where they could occur. First, let's talk about what happens to cause the urges in the first place. Both guys and girls have hormonal fluctuations. Girls have abdominal pain, guys get a hyperactive sex drive. It's not necessarily a monthly cycle, though - male hormones fluctuate throughout the day, week, month... but realizing that keeps me on my guard. When I have enough hormones in my blood and see the right kind of guy, or even think about him, synapses trigger in my brain that turn on the attraction reflex. It's instant and my breathing becomes more shallow, my mind begins to blur, and I feel stirring. My mind races to come up with as many possible scenarios as possible to indulge the urge, and I have to forcefully take back control so that I don't jeopardize what I really want in life.

And so the key to prevention is two-fold. The first one is obvious, but it's not always very convenient - avoiding situations where urges happen. If I know that I'll get major urges when I see guys in the shower, then I avoid the public shower. Same thing with the locker room or any other place. That can be rough, though, if you're on a team of players or working out at the gym. But it's definitely applicable to avoiding the wrong kinds of Internet sites, the wrong kinds of places, and even using the Internet at the wrong time of night. I've realized where my greatest urges happen, and worked to minimize my contact with those places.

Sometimes reducing temptation may mean making drastic changes to lifestyle and schedule. Once I decided that I didn't want to have the Internet at home. It was destroying my life, and I wanted to be in control again. I wasn't strong enough to stay clean with a connection in my home. I realized I could forward my emails to my cell phone and use the Internet at work or another public place. So I moved into a new place that had no Internet connection. And life was amazing. Yeah - it was frustrating to have to go find a public place to use the Internet, especially when I actually needed it at night, but the freedom it gave me was worth much more than the discomfort it caused me.

The second way to reduce urges is a little less obvious. I feel attracted to certain kinds of guys. A key in lessening my attraction is becoming un-attracted to them. I know that may sound a bit trite, but it works. I talk to him to realize that he's a real person who is a child of God, or I try to find something about the guy that I absolutely can't stand, and I focus on it until it blocks out everything else. I find flaws in his character, or convince myself that he has a terrible attitude. I pretend that he's totally arrogant or think that he doesn't treat his family right. It's exactly what you shouldn't do with other people when you are learning to love them and serve them - but it's amazingly effective when you're trying to stop wanting a guy. You either see him as a person or blow his flaws out of proportion, and then you realize how much of a fantasy your mind really was creating.

Avoiding temptation - whether by un-learning an attraction to certain kinds of guys or minimizing my contact with them, has helped me have fewer overwhelming urges. And fewer urges means that I have fewer sins. That's a step forward in my boat.

1 comment:

  1. Your two methods strike me. I find it fascinating how people become attached to things, and I find that it can be invaluable to decide that something isn't necessary in my life. I attribute part of that attitude to my experience as a full-time missionary, during which I gave up a number of things for a long time. An internet connection in the home can be very convenient, but I wonder if my life and my family's life would be better without it...we'll see.

    Also, I think you're spot on about fantasy. Temptation relies on fantasy, doesn't it? In the case of sexual sin, realizing the reality behind the images or the ideas in our heads can be key to alleviating a fantasy-driven desire.

    Thanks for your thoughts.


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