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Temptation Tip: Talk Back To Control The Inner Narrative

Adam and Eve being tempted in the garden..
Our inner dialogue is the battleground of temptation. (Image: Saddleback Kids)

In Christianity, the voice of temptation is understood both as an expression of man’s desires (James 1:14), and of Satan’s opportunism (Matthew 4). In Genesis, God describes sin, and the temptation to commit it, as a malignant force that seeks to rule over its subjects. In another non-religious article, Dr. Leigh describes addiction and the impulses it generates in terms of a “hijacker,” supported by complex systems in the brain, that entices people to take action against their long-term interests. Desires may come from within, but that does not make them trustworthy.

Temptation is a form of communication. Sometimes temptation uses words; other times, temptation takes the form of cravings and impulses that cry out to be satisfied (do this!, do that!, do it now!).

Biblical Strategies To Overcome Temptation

Have we ever thought to “talk back?” No, I’m not doing that! That isn’t in my best interest! I’m in charge here, not you! It’s like a child who keeps whining, and the parent indulges it just to get it to shut up—instead of setting boundaries early on. Talking back is one of the strategies Dr. Leigh recommends that I have found particularly helpful.

Wait, you may think. Doesn’t the Bible say to flee sexual temptation, like Joseph? Isn’t talking back a form of engagement?

Indeed, but the Bible also says to “put evil to death.” The Bible uses both passive and active language to describe the struggle against temptation. Check out these verses.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

What strategy should I use, then, you may ask, an active or a passive one? The truth is we should use both, depending on the situation. If being around our phone late at night is a source of temptation, then we should move it. (Integrity Tip: Charge Your Phone In Another Room.) If we are at a questionable party, or watching an explicit movie, or otherwise in a tempting situation and have the opportunity to leave, then we should exit.

The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.

Sun Tzu, The Art Of War

Temptation, however, isn’t just in the heat of the moment of some sinful act. Temptation takes place in our thoughts throughout the day. The smaller temptations of our thoughts are what precede the larger temptations of our actions.

The smaller temptations of our thoughts are what precede the larger temptations of our actions.

We cannot flee our own minds (that’s called insanity), but we can take control of them by talking back.

Today, let’s not get bullied by the voice of the devil, the “hijacker,” and our own desires. Let’s take the control back by guiding the narrative of our inner dialogues.

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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