Resisting Temptation


If man could but resist temptation, paradise would have remained our home. All evil that has come into the world is the result of man’s inability–or shall we say unwillingness–to resist temptation. There is, therefore, no more important spiritual exercise than to learn to resist and overcome temptation.

Thomas à Kempis highlights the absolute necessity of this practice when he points out in his Imitation of Christ that, “As long as we live in this world we cannot be without tribulation and temptation.”

Why would God permit us to suffer so? “[T]emptations are often very profitable to a man although they be troublesome and grievous: for in them a man is humbled, purified, and instructed.” Let us not waste these golden opportunities to profit much.

à Kempis offers his suggestion, “By flight alone we cannot overcome; but by patience and true humility we are made stronger than our enemies. He who only declines them outwardly and does not pluck out the root will profit little; nay, temptations will sooner return to him, and he will find himself in a worse condition.” Run from temptations, yes, but fight to weed out the root cause of temptation. We’re told in the Imitation that concupiscence is that root cause, and it can only be weeded out by the practice of consistent self-denial.

Another tip: “[W]e must be watchful, especially in the beginning of temptation, because then the enemy is easier overcome, if he is not suffered to come in at all at the door of the soul, but is kept out and resisted at his first knock.”

And finally, a little encouragment. “We must not, therefore, despair when we are tempted, but pray to God with so much the more fervor, that He may vouchsafe to help us in all tribulations; who, no doubt, according to the saying of St. Paul, will, ‘make such issue with the temptation that we may be able to bear it.'”

God sends us nothing we cannot handle. If only we would ask Him for His help, we could, through Him, accomplish anything.


4 thoughts on “Resisting Temptation

  1. I come back to this gem often since it was posted. It’s like a booster shot when time doesn’t permit for more formal prayer. The Chaplet of St Michael, with its many pleas for the Grace to bear temptation, to grow in Charity, humility and obedience, to struggle against our disordered passions, is both a source of consolation as well as frustration. St Paul summed it up best– I work out my salvation in fear and trembling; or as the Haydock explains, be on your God are against presumption and despair. It’s been a week, it surely has! But He saw me through this, and I’m grateful.

  2. Tom write:”God sends us nothing we cannot handle. If only we would ask Him for His help, we could, through Him, accomplish anything.”

    The Centurion says: Lord, I’m not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.

    The key is found above, I think. If I can only remember to ask “Him for His help ” when the devil’s vexing is at its worst, rather than succumbing to what you so rightly correct as unwillingness to resist temptation, which always leads to some form of despair. Fr G said once that it isn’t that God doesn’t love me enough that I fall, it’s that I don’t love God enough that I fall. Cooperating with His Grace, allowing Him to enter under my roof, asking Him for His help– all demonstrations of desire to Love Him more than self. Desire leads to habit. Habit leads to conversion.

    See, there’s a reason to keep returning to this post and á Kempis’ wisdom.

  3. 4th Sunday after Epiphany:

    At that time, Jesus got into a boat, and His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was covered by the waves; but He was asleep. So they came and woke Him, saying, Lord, save us! we are perishing! But He said to them, Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the sea, and there came a great calm. And the men marvelled, saying, What manner of Man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?

    God has great timing, doesn’t He?

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