The average person is faced with temptations nearly every day. You may have the desire to eat unhealthy food when you are trying to stay conscious of what you eat, put off a project you know you should be working on, or go out with friends on a night you know you should have gone to bed early. Some temptations may be more extreme. You might have the temptation to cheat on your partner, take drugs or alcohol, or do something that puts yourself or those you love in danger.
Temptation by itself is normal, and often harmless so long as it exists only as a thought. It is when you choose to act on temptation and engage in a behavior you shouldn’t that temptation can become destructive.
The Impossibility of Meeting All Your Needs
It is true that tempting thoughts can be hard to handle, and managing them can feel like you are constantly fighting against yourself. But the problem is that it is not possible to meet all your needs, because giving into temptation leads to other needs not being met.
For example, if a person gives into temptation and cheats on a spouse, the aftermath can lead to numerous additional issues:
- Negative emotions like shame and guilt.
- Relationship consequences, including potential for divorce.
- Financial consequences from the divorce, and more.
By giving into one temptation to meet one need, other needs of yours are going to go unmet.
In addition, many needs can never be truly satisfied. Most people find giving in to some temptations, such as sexual partners, obtaining wealth, etc., never truly satisfy the need, since more temptation exists, but it does hurt your ability to have other needs met, making it overall a net negative.
Finally, as human beings, we have an innate interest in justifying our decisions. Acting on a temptation can make it easier to act on a future temptation by over-justifying it or desiring it again. This can lead to a pattern of self-destructive behavior that will also lead to needs being unmet. Therefore it is important to manage temptations from the beginning, avoid acting on them, and learn how to re-think how we view our needs.
In some cases, you may be able to avoid situations that you know will tempt you, such as not being alone with someone you are attracted to or not keeping unhealthy food or alcohol in the house. But not every situation can be avoided. Sometimes you will be confronted with temptation and the strong desire to act on it. When that happens, you can:
- Weigh the consequences of what you might lose by acting on temptation.
- Accept that you can give in but choose not to.
- Remember your long term goals that acting on temptation can interrupt.
It is simply not possible in life to satisfy your every need. Considering these factors can help you assess which of your personal needs are more important to you. By reminding yourself of your personal priorities before you turn temptation into action, you reduce the risk that your temptation creates a self-destructive habit.