Other Ways of Resisting Temptation
1. After prayer, humility is the best weapon in our struggle against temptation.
God wishes us to realise that we are incapable of a single good thought or action without His assistance. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5) “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) We cannot conquer temptation without the grace of God, and God only gives His grace to the humble. He allows us to be troubled by temptation in order to humble us, and if He perceives that we are still proud He allows us to fall by denying us His grace. Many of our falls, especially sins of impurity, are the result of pride.
Let us be humble, therefore, and recognise our own nothingness. At the same time, let us have complete confidence in God. “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) We must be humble not only in the sight of God, but also in the presence of men. “What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou boast as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7) Pride and ambition are links in a chain which secures us in the bondage of sin.
2. The third method is to avoid the occasions of sin. Anyone who places himself without grave reasons in the proximate occasion of sin is certain to fall. “He who loves danger,” the Holy Spirit warns us, “will perish in it.” (Ecclus. 3:27) It is useless for a man to pray when he is exposing himself needlessly and voluntarily to the danger of sinning. He cannot expect God to hear his prayers, for this is presumption, not confidence in God.
On the other hand a man may be obliged to expose himself to the risk of temptation in the course of his job or for some other strong reason. In this case, he can be sure of God's assistance, but he should fortify himself by fervent prayer and by taking all the precautions necessary to minimise the danger. Where temptations against holy purity are involved, it is especially necessary to avoid even the slightest occasion of sin when that is possible. As St. Francis de Sales was accustomed to say, there are certain battles which can only be won by soldiers who are prepared to retreat.
3. Very often it is impossible to flee from temptation, and there is no alternative but to face up to it.
We cannot face up to every kind of temptation in precisely the same manner. Pride, for example, may be assailed not merely by thinking about our own weakness, but also by performing acts of humility. We can counter irritability by remaining silent and by behaving gently and patiently. We can quench the desire for revenge by doing good to our enemies. In short, we can combat each temptation by performing good actions opposed to the vice towards which we are being drawn.
There are certain temptations, however, which it is wiser not to confront directly. If we allow ourselves to come face to face with impure thoughts and suggestions, for example, our senses are further aroused and the battle becomes harder than ever. God's grace should be implored from the outset and our good resolutions should be renewed. Then we should direct our attention to other thoughts and pursuits which are capable of holding our interest. If the temptations are particularly violent, voluntary mortification may be helpful and even necessary.
Once we have triumphed, we shall be rewarded with spiritual peace.
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