7 Things Spam Taught Me about Temptation

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Dwlocks.

No, not the lunchmeat. Temptation is supposed to be something desirable.

Here at T&C, we’ve been keeping a close eye on our spam filters to keep you from having to read the kind of garbage we do. I’ve noticed, though, that spam has one major thing in common with the Devil’s time-honored tactics: Marketing. Both tell us things we want to hear or appeal to our desires. Here are a few examples:

  1. Flattery. Yep, that special appeal to pride we’ve all experienced from the devil is also used by spammers. I’m frequently tempted to approve a comment like this until I notice the vocab errors:

    “Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you ever been blogging for? You made running a blog glance easy. The full look of your web site is fantastic, let alone the content material!”

    I make running a blog glance easy? Sweet! Of course, if it’s not the poor choice of words coming from a non-native English-speaking spammer, it’s the fact that the username was “get out of debt.” Temptation uses flattery, too. The trick to flattery is to get the individual to appreciate your compliments in such a way that he will feel bad for not giving you what you want. The spammer wanted me to approve his comment. The devil wants me to sin.

  2. Quid pro quo. The thing about spammers and temptation is that they need our cooperation so much they don’t mind making themselves helpful. Between the comments “Want to increase traffic on your blog?” and “FREE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS!” I freely admit that I’m more attracted to the first. Temptation works similarly: “If you just move the clock forward 40 minutes, you’ll get out of this 2-hour class early, and no one will be the wiser.” No, I didn’t do that, but one of my classmates did in college Greek and I kept my mouth shut. Sorry, Dr. Richey.  In some ways, quid pro quo is the opposite of flattery; the latter appeals to things you want to hear while the former appeals to things you don’t want to hear, namely, that there is something you need and that sinning will fill that void.
  3. Sexual enticements. This is really a type of quid pro quo, but it deserves its own mention. I’m not sure who responds to all-caps proclamations of “FREE CIALIS!” but I’m sure there are some. Temptation cannot touch us if we practice detachment. If we are detached from our desires, then appeals to them will do nothing. At the start of the spiritual life, we may easily be captivated by temptations like this. As we get used to saying no to our disordered desires, those things have less power over us. A newly devoted Christian may find it very difficult to look away from a billboard featuring a scandalously clothed woman holding a plate of buffalo wings. After learning discipline from his experiences in spiritual warfare, he will gather the resolve to look away from such things. The Quid Pro Quo and its related temptations never go away, though. The devil can and does even use noble things like virtue to tempt us into his snares: a man may call himself courageous even though he’s really being imprudent.
  4. Drowning out the good. In our relatively short time blogging, we’ve had 257 spam comments and 203 real comments. Folks, if you haven’t experienced those moments when temptation keeps knocking at the door and won’t go away, I don’t know what to tell you. When I face this kind of temptation, I look for the nearest Crucifix and invoke the Holy Name of Jesus. Otherwise, I do whatever I can to distract myself. When I face this kind of spam, I chuck it.
  5. Gibberish. The core of temptation is always really nothing more than nonsense and gibberish. How else could it be persuading me to follow disordered desires? What other way could it lead me astray from virtue, which is always wise, to sin, which is always folly?  Remember when you’re feeling tempted: giving in would only be foolish.
  6. Custom-tailoring. Even though all temptation and sin is ultimately nonsensical gibberish, that doesn’t mean the devil will neglect to craft it into a seemingly logical argument that fits my personality. After a few weeks of sending spam into exile, I made the mistake of approving a comment that linked to a Christian website. The devil doesn’t waste his time tempting us with nonsense. He knows how we think. If the devil were playing chess with Bobby Fischer, the devil would win every time. After I accepted this comment in all its glorified spammy goodness, our comboxes were inundated with comments from this same website. Then and only then did I realize it was a fake Christian website.
  7. Just because it’s in your inbox doesn’t make it your fault. We all get spam. We all get temptations. Even Jesus did. Thoughts will come into our heads, desires will pass through our hearts, emotions will stir in us a thousand possibilities, but it’s up to you whether you want to give it a look or throw it in the spam folder.

Remember: temptations are a lot like spam, just with better grammar.


  1. This is why I don’t want the Internet to evolve into some kind of inside-your-head network. I don’t want spam in my head, let alone in my dreams.

  2. As a fellow WordPress blogger at Salve Sancta Mater Dei, I love this piece! In my short time blogging, Akismet (& St. Michael) have saved me from 226 pieces of cyber-poop; and yet only 56 legitimate comments have found their way through. Comparing spam to tempation is astute. Each one of your points rang true for me. I too almost fell for a Catholic spam – a creative spam citing Mass times for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, (also selling storm windows), but that was beside the point -(thank you akismet). Great post, thank you for making me smile!


    MA JMJ at http://salvematerdei.com