Temptation (Re-Addressed)


24In July 2011, I first made mention of a quote in the Rhetoric of Aristotle, Volume I, Chapter 14, verse 1 – ‘The less the temptation, the greater the sin.’
(I wrote an article previously about this. But, I’ll rehash it here and then turned that on its head.)
Here’s what I had previously understood the quote to mean:

  • If a sin appears to be seemingly small, we’re more tempted to do it.
  • If a sin appears to be great (like mass murder), we’re less tempted to do it.

For example, say you eat dinner at a restaurant and receive horrible service. Your food arrives late, there’s a hair in your soup, and it’s just an overall awful experience. Which of the following actions would you be most tempted towards?

  • Under-tipping the waiter (a small sin)
  • Spitting in the waiter’s face (a bigger sin)
  • Blowing up the restaurant (a huge, unthinkable sin)

I’m willing to bet you’d be really tempted towards not giving the waiter a good tip.
However, you probably wouldn’t be tempted to spit in the waiter’s face, or blow up the whole restaurant. Those two actions would be much greater sins, and so they would create less temptation in you.
The less the temptation, the greater the sin.
(And here’s where the head-turning is going to happen…)
I received emails from people explaining, and they are right, how there is another way to understand this quote: it’s the little sins – those small temptations that appear to be harmless – that are our downfall.
The word “impeccable” means “without sin” and there is no one living who is truly without sin.
In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz defines sin as going against oneself. We sin everyday by being careless with what we think, say, and do. The solution, according to Ruiz, is to be “impeccable with our word.” I’d say, let’s just try to not go against ourselves.
We all make peccadilloes. We cheat a little on our diet. Acquire a pen that’s not ours. Mutter under our breath during rush hour traffic. It’s the little things that you’re more tempted towards doing.
You’ll be less tempted to create mass destruction or physically assault the person who ticked you off. These probably aren’t even in your realm of consciousness (unless you’re really sick…).
The less the temptation, the greater the sin.
So, we must be wary of the little things that keep us further from being impeccable – without sin.
This week’s spiritual-religious advice:
Contemplate those little places where you might sin, and make a concerted effort not to do so.
With love,

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