I’d like to share with you a quote that helps put into perspective the severity of most of our temptations:
The less the temptation, the greater the sin.
Say what? Does that make sense? The less the temptation, the greater the sin.
Let’s break this down, and we’ll see how it makes sense.
Pretend someone has uttered obnoxious words to you. Perhaps it’s an offhand comment, a teasing remark, or a scathing criticism. Nothing too severe, but not exactly a pleasantry. How do you respond? You might be tempted to tell that person off, right? But, chances are, you wouldn’t spit in their face, kick them in the shins, or murder their kin.
Most of us might be tempted to tell the person off. This, compared with the aforementioned options, is a pretty minor sin. And that’s the point.
Few of us (I hope) would be tempted to punch the person in the face. We know that punching them would constitute a major offense, a much greater sin, and there would be serious consequences as a result. The thought of punching them probably doesn’t even cross our mind.
We’re not as tempted to punch them in the face (greater sin) as we are to tell them off (minor sin).
Thus the less tempting it is, the greater the sin.
This is true for other areas in life, as well. Imagine you’re out somewhere, eating dinner at a restaurant or socializing at a party. You might be tempted to smoke a cigarette or have a second helping of desert, but not tempted to murder someone or take their jacket from the coatroom. You might be inclined to eat too much ice cream, but you wouldn’t hold the chef hostage with a gun to his head.
We’re usually more tempted to commit “minor” sins than major ones. There is often greater temptation in committing smaller sins.
My point here is that whatever is actually tempting us (sleeping in a little later, procrastinating on a chore, anything) – these things are probably not that bad. They could be much worse, right?
If we view our temptations as “little things,” this may take a bit of pressure off us. Not that I’m advising we do them – but if we came to understand that the things we’re tempted to do are not actually that bad, then we can stop beating ourselves up when we’re tempted to do them.
Let me say that again in different words: if we see that our temptations aren’t so bad, we might stop lambasting ourselves for being tempted and thereby possibly lessen both our self-castigation and our inclination towards doing such things.
Think of it this way: at least you aren’t driven to do really terrible things!
So today, I want you to ponder the stuff you’re tempted to do. Chances are, you’re not being tempted to do anything that bad. You’re probably doing A-OK if those things are your worst temptations.
Spiritual-religious advice: compassionately ponder your temptations.