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How to Overcome Temptation
The best practice is to prevent even the “possibility” of succumbing to temptation. We need to do whatever it “takes” to keep our minds elevated above mundane, promiscuous, permissive gutter thoughts and, rather, focused/set on uplifting, inspiring, celestial summit thoughts. As we are more consistent and sincere in our prayers, scripture study and obedience to the commandments of God and promptings of His Spirit (see True Conversion Brings Happiness) … Satan’s temptations/power to influence us lessens and lessens till our consistency in doing these things eventually nullifies those temptations (“And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power…” – 1 Nephi 22:26). If you find your thoughts beginning to sink down into the gutter, pause a moment to reflect on and realize what is happening# and that you have the choice to either allow them to continue to sink or to reverse the direction and elevate them proactively to celestial heights! Just take a moment and imagine yourself lifting your thoughts heavenward! As you do, the “pull” of whatever was tempting you at the moment will in no time lose its power, and you will have truly risen above it to where it cannot go! Sing a favorite hymn, read the scriptures, think of someone you love or something postive you planned/looked forward to doing … where your thoughts go, so goes your life. Deciding/Allowing yourself to give in even to the slightest temptation allows Satan to have ever so slightly and gradually more and more of a “grip” … till you eventually lose your ability/power to “break loose.” This is why it is so important/vital to act decisively and quickly as soon as you detect even the slightest inkling of an undesired thought. Immediately* redirect your thoughts heavenward, to the summit … where the air is fresh and the view breathtaking!
(O yes ... by all means pray!... Pray thanking God He has helped you overcome the temptation ... as if you have it no more! When even the slightest hint of temptation arises, just pray: "Heavenly Father, I thank thee so much that I no longer have this problem." In essence this programs your mind such that it becomes true. Its amazing the impact a brief prayer such as this has. [i.e. exercise faith]) REMIND yourself that enjoying the companionship of the First Comforter (the Holy Ghost) and ultimately the Second Comforter (Jesus Christ, himself) is earned by consistent obedience to God's commandments. Watch your thoughts (Mosiah 4:30).
# Develop an awareness of the chain of events that leads to or results in the unwanted behavior. For instance, you may find that boredom, watching TV, talking on the telephone, driving the car, and doing routine tasks that call for very little concentration set off the habit you wish to break. This awareness will take your mind/body off "autopilot" and give you just that moment of decision you need to curtail what once seemed "inevitable." Avoid the temptation to rationalize committing “small” sins (“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” – Rom. 8:6) (Read: Two Doors and "Firm, Steadfast and Immovable" - 1 Nephi 2:10) All-too-often we try to see how close we can come to temptation without succumbing to it ... and all-too-often we do succumb. In such instances, to decide to take even "one step" toward that temptation is the same as deciding to commit that act to which the temptation invariably leads us. Therefore, deciding not to take that little step becomes the decision not to commit the act ... just as assuredly as the decision to take that step is to decide to commit the act.
* “Immediately” is vitally important … for a temptation left in your thoughts is like a virus opened in your computer … it wastes no time infiltrating it! … So, as soon as you notice such a thought, Stop it by saying “No,” and, without hesitation think of/ do something constructive/uplifting! (Our mind is always filled with thoughts … the only way to remove an unwanted thought is by “displacement”) To overcome a bad habit that has become "ingrained," start small.
Temptations can arise and intensify especially in times of discouragement. Discouragement isn’t so much the result of trials and difficulties as our personal shortcomings -- not doing all we know we can and should do … the results of which keep us in ruts we’ve gotten all too “used to” and which lead to feelings of hopelessness. These seeds of hopelessness, in turn, make us “susceptible” to the enticings of temptation. We say to ourselves, “I’m hopeless … so I may as well succumb to this temptation … and why not? … I’m a ‘nobody’ and don’t deserve any blessings … so what does it matter if I do this act … that’s ‘the way I am’ … so I may as well act that way.” The way to overcome these feelings is to realize the truth: we are not a “nobody,” but a Child of God with unlimited potential for good! With this realization comes the understanding that our Heavenly Father surely loves us and will help us meet, overcome and grow from our trials … each of which we come to know is ultimately for our benefit! They “push” us to develop God-like characteristics (i.e. to become like God). And, indeed, this is what life is all about! (see The Day that Turns Your Life Around and Perspective on Life)
Just as we need resistance and nourishment to flex and strengthen our physical muscles, we need temptation and service to flex and strengthen our spiritual "muscles." Indeed, this is why there is "opposition in all things" (2 Ne. 2:11)... so, whenever we are beset with a temptation or inspired to do an act of service ... realize that Heavenly Father is just allowing us another choice opportunity to become more like Him! (i.e. overcoming first sins of commission, then on to sins of omission) ... It's all a part of His divine plan! So, when tempted or inspired, just tell yourself, "Wow, another "opportuinty" to flex/nourish my spiritual muscles!" As we continue to take advantage of these opportunities, we will reach the point that, due to our righteousness, temptations are nullified (1 Ne. 22:26) and the Holy Ghost becomes our Constant Companion (D&C 121:45-46) ... just ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" (WWJD)
Those who most easily succumb to temptations are those who have not determined a purpose for their life … who, as a result, typically have not much of lasting value to “look forward” to … who waste their effort/time on temporary pleasures that yield no long-lasting beneficial results … who may even idle-away their time and, thus, become “candidates” for temptation (“The idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”).
All-in-all, one must have a purpose in life … “backed up” with long and short-range dreams/goals. As we “hone in” on our purpose, we break down these goals into activities/actions/steps we can take today … and each day. All this gives us one of the most significant “ingredients” in “disarming” the impact temptations can have on us. That ingredient? – Positive Expectancy! If we keep our minds occupied/focused/engaged on what we do want, there will be no room or opportunity for idle/unwholesome thoughts to lead us to what we don't want! Also, think how much you love your spouse and children … ask yourself: “Do I want to be in the Celestial Kingdom with my family?” Ultimately, where the "rubber hits the road" is your DESIRE/MOTIVATION to overcome an obstacle (see The Day That Turns Your Life Around). Perhaps the greatest deterrent of temptation is to occupy your time in the service of others ... an aged person living alone, a young person needing guidance, a neighbor you just don't know that well who might need a helping hand. They are all around us! So often it is a person who just needs to feel loved and appreciated ... and that person might be closer than you realize ... maybe in your own family(!)
Above all, remember this – we are each (literally) a child of God and have a spark of divinity within us. We are heavenly beings having an earthly experience, preparing us to become all that we have the potential of becoming … even becoming like our Father in Heaven (who truly is the father of our spirits)! Indeed, the scriptures testify of our divine ancestry --
Hosea 1:10, Acts 17:29, Romans 8:16, Psalms 82:6, Hebrews 12:9.