When talking to a Christian friend of mine, we were talking about a similar topic one day regarding sin, such as habitual sin. He brought up a great point about how our perspective changes on the “other side of sin”. For example, a person who is wrestling with doing drugs can go practically insane with the mental, emotional and physical stress of trying to resist taking a hit. The temptation of taking a smoke, or injecting a shot can get super intense where it is all they think about every waking moment – and quite honestly keeps them up when they should be sleeping.
Same goes for any person who is addicted to anything. The shopaholic breaks out in a sweat pacing in front of the computer at 1am, wanting to get online and shop until their hearts content. Chronic gamblers sit in their Vegas hotel room dying to go downstairs to hit the slots, when they know they should be going to the business convention the trip was meant for. A married office manager forces himself not to visit the cubical a sexy co-worker moved into, which he sees as his new “affair target” (making it employee number three he’s had extra marital affairs with just this year).
Some kind of temptation may be building up in your too. Something new, or something you’ve wrestled with for years. What I found, and what my friend explained to me is that how we think about that temptation is much different before committing a sinful act, as opposed to after. The drug addict, shopping addict, gambling addict, and sex addict all have a level of remorse after their act usually, but also feel a sense of relief. Questions of “why did I do that” or “why am I doing this” usually follows to some degree. After we give into sin, whether it is pilfering from a slush account at work for the tenth time, or yelling at our families as we are addicted to the power we have over them, we don’t fully understand why we “needed” to do that.
Our perspective “on the other side of sin” or after we commit it, is much different than it was before we sinned, but we also remember the intensity leading up to the act. There is a line in a song I like which says something to the fact of “the whole world depends on this decision”. The temptations of sin get so intense, it is like it is the only thing which matters. Sure, we may even be successful at resisting for a while, but those tempting thoughts creep into our mind when we get up in the morning, stay all through the day, and we go to bed trying to think about something else. In my combative times with sin, I’ve even tried to rationalize the fact that if I just do it, I can move on.
Oh boy, that is a tough one to combat. I know if I give in the pain of temptation will go away… but in the back of my mind I’ve learned it is only temporary. However, whether you believe it or not, we know from scientists to psychologists that getting a “hit” of whatever your “drug” of choice is will only lead to needing a bigger hit the next time. The lie we tell ourselves is: “I can handle it”. I’ve told myself that lie more times than I can count. We converse with ourselves, saying “I got it, I can handle it… I’ll only do… or I’ll only use… or I’ll just do… one more time”.
We think we can box in our cravings when in reality they box in us. They pigeon hole us in doing whatever we’re trying to stay away from just a bit more, for a bit longer and with a bit more intensity. An overeater who uses food as comfort and is 50% over their average body weight eats a couple more Twinkies, not just one she originally told herself she needed. The workaholic takes on a couple more projects, when taking on one was already skyrocketing his blood pressure and stealing time away from his family. The modern day hermit who is scared of social interaction escapes to their empty house and all outside contact for weeks, when all they said was that they needed a weekend break.
In my own life I’m now very aware of when I say “I’ve got it, I’ll just ONLY do it one time…”. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean I make the right decisions every time, but it is a huge red flag which helps me make better decisions more consistently. Stopping before you start is so invaluable, but many times it makes us feel so weak. We feel inadequate that we can’t handle just a little. Who just can’t have one drink, the alcoholic says to themselves. But as we know, one leads to two, two to four, four leads to multiple shots of heavier stuff.
Moderation is our excuse to indulge in the stuff that we shouldn’t do, say or think. Talking bad behind someone’s back seems to not be as bad if we just do it a little, or confine it to just a friend or two. Being controlling only to our co-workers doesn’t seem as bad, as long as we only limit it to those under us which we manage. We think if we limit our vices we’re really not doing anything wrong. However, as I’ve said many times, our limits somehow expire and we find ourselves needing a new threshold to satisfy our cravings whether it be with sex, drugs, stress or a negative attitude which effects those around us way more than we know.
When God wrote the Ten Commandments, he didn’t give us an allowance of any sort for good reason. He didn’t say “Thou shall not murder… more than three times”. He just instructed us not to murder at all. When He taught us that “Thou shall not commit adultery”, it is not like we missed a verse, and it really read “Thou shall not commit adultery after the age of 40”. In the Bible He actually goes a step further noting that we can commit murder and adultery even in our hearts, without the actual physical acts.
I know you might be asking yourself, “How can that be fair”? You may understand that physically having sex with someone other than your spouse is adultery, but in Matthew 5:28 it reads, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. That is what you think is unfair. You drew a line at the physical stuff, but God actually drew the line before that with our thoughts. Why would He do that?
I’ll conclude this long post next time…