Battling Temptation: A Dieter’s Analogy
There I was. Sitting in the driver’s seat of my Green Machine (van) and talking into the screen/box at the local drive-through. As I ordered “linner” (the afternoon equivalent of brunch) for myself and the kids, it struck me that I simply had to order myself a soda, and some chicken nuggets as well, because I had nothing else with which to combat the hunger pangs that were starting since I had skipped lunch, opting instead to arrive at our appointment on time. Temptation was hitting, hard, and I was caving, fast.
Normally, I don’t leave home without my 32 ounce bottle of water in tow. I also try to keep, if not healthy, at least not terribly harmful snacks in the car. I do this to help me meet my weight loss goals and to save money. It’s also handy for the kids (“If you aren’t hungry or thirsty enough to eat this half melted, sticky granola bar, and drink this warm bottle of water, you can’t possibly be hungry enough for McDonalds” — it’s a good gauge). When the temptation strikes to stop off for an ice cold coffee, I drink some water and remember that I don’t need extra caffeine. When the siren song of a Baconator starts calling me, I eat a graham cracker and know I’ll be able to drive right past the Wendy’s. Why oh why had I not stocked the car before heading out today?
In the midst of this crisis of (dietary and monetary) conscience, I had an epiphany: Just as “arming” myself with water and snacks helps me keep an eye on my waistline and my wallet, arming myself with sacramentals and books on virtuous topics helps me keep an eye on my spiritual well-being. When temptation strikes to say, scream at the driver of the next car who just cut me off while he was going 80 in a 65 zone (I’m looking at you, Prius driver), I may avoid the sin of not-so-righteous anger by glancing at the medal of St. Christopher my husband keeps in the car. When I’m heading out to a party where I know I’ll end up seeing a notorious gossip, perhaps a blessing with some holy water from the font by my front door will remind me to keep the conversation on more salient points than what so-and-so-did-with-what’s-his-name. If I try to fill my mind with the writings of a great saint, I’ll have a harder time becoming engrossed in a movie with less than appropriate themes.
The Church doesn’t give us these things as “good luck charms,” but rather as helps to combat temptation. Thinking on them may just give us the little (or sometimes large — it’s hard to walk away from a Baconator is all I’m saying) nudge we need to do the right thing, or at least, to no do the wrong thing. Just as anyone who’s ever tried to eat better will tell you, that little stash of the right food in the right place can make all the difference in success or failure; so also can the right reading or the right sacramental mean a victory over sin rather than a fall.