By understanding exactly how temptations work in your conscious and subconscious mind, you can deal with it more effectively and more quickly.
Some years ago, I sat down to counsel a middle-aged man whom I have known since his boyhood. I have personally witnessed his transformation over the past couple of decades, from a young profligate person whose vile life defied description to someone so miraculously transformed by God’s grace that I have seldom seen anyone else with such great zeal and good works for his Savior.
He confessed to me that no matter how instantaneously he put certain vile temptations out his mind during his waking hours, when he was asleep filthy scenes ran riot in his dreams, and, overwhelming his desire to flee from the filthy scenes, he almost always found himself indulging in the sinful acts his subconscious mind conjured up. The lustful acts he was carrying out in his dreams were just as bad, and often worse than what he had indulged in during his licentious days before his conversion to the Christ life. All his supplications to God to enable him to be rid of these filthy dreams had been futile so far.
As a result, he was in constant deep anguish at his impossibility to lead an equally clean life in his subconscious mind as in his conscious.
I asked him, ‘You put away vile thoughts instantly when they come to your thoughts when you are awake. What about the not-so-vile thoughts? Is there a wee little allowance in your mind for a few things in your daily life that you know in your heart are better to give up than to continue in them? Say, eating some food, or drinking some beverage?’
He pondered for a few seconds, and then replied, ‘As far as my conscience knows, the only things I give in to now and then is my yearning for chocolate and ice-cream.’
‘But you are diabetic, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, but I do not take them daily, just when the yearning comes now and then’.
‘But your doctor has advised you even against the occasional indulgence in sweet foods?’
‘Think, is there another one small yearning you give in to occasionally. Beer?’
I knew he loved beer, and was drinking it regularly though moderately. I have even sat down for beer sessions with him in those days when I too used to take this beverage regularly.
‘Oh, yea. You know I don’t take it excessively.’
‘But after drinking beer, how did you find your sleep that night?’
‘Actually, almost every time I have a beer during the daytime, I tend to find the vile dreams are more profuse and more intense. I don’t understand why. When taking beer, I allow nothing vile I into my mind.’
‘I believe that. But alcohol had caused you some big troubles in the days before Christ found you, right?’
‘Yea, it was one of my greatest weaknesses, and that which caused me to commit several other sins.’
‘And probably many times after your conversion, you had wanted to stop taking it completely and have nothing to do with something that wrecked so much havoc in your earlier life?’
He was quiet for a while, and then spoke up.
‘Frankly, I made many attempts to stop drinking beer even in moderate quantity, because I saw its association with my filthy dreams. But I never thought it was a serious problem.’
‘No, the drinking in itself is not the problem. But your allowing it, even when you know you shouldn’t is the problem. That spirit of moderate allowance in your conscious mind is the intimate little brother of the spirit of free indulgence of filth in your subconscious mind. When you are asleep it is this little brother that always opens the backdoor to your mind to his more wicked sibling, without your knowing it.’
‘But the filthy spirit apparently has another little brother too’, I continued. ‘So even if the beer spirit doesn’t open, the chocolate brother would.’
The man was smiling, but I saw his eyes were widening.
‘You think my drinking and eating chocolate is what is causing my helplessness at my filthy dreams?’
‘It is not your drinking beer and eating chocolates that are causing it. It is your lack of selfcontrol in these two areas. On the day your conscience allows you to take them without feeling the least guilty, you may. But until you exercise absolute selfcontrol in these two areas as well and if there be anything else in your life you haven’t told me – the door to your subconscious mind will continue to be under the control of these little housekeeping elves of the devil.’
The man returned home with a new perspective of his ‘harmless’ little indulgences.
A lack of selfcontrol in one area of a person’s life is invariably connected to another larger lack of selfcontrol in another area in him. Sexual temptations are the half-brother of belly temptations, or beer, or gambling.
He who is selfcontrolled in the least is also selfcontrolled in the greatest. And he who is not selfcontrolled in the least cannot be selfcontrolled in the greatest. This is a corollary truth of Christ’s statement,
‘He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.’ Lk 16:10
If temptations continue stalking you relentlessly, it is a sure sign that a red light is flashing from heaven in your life. If you cannot find the answer in the direct temptation, look for it in another area of your life.
Perhaps there is someone you are unable to forgive totally, though you still love him or her, perhaps there is some longstanding offense against a person who had done you a wrong, even if you don’t hate him or her, perhaps you occasionally let your eyes linger over a pornographic image for a few seconds instead of turning your eyes off it instantaneously, perhaps there is thought that you allow lodgment in your mind for a short while, which should not be entertained for even a fraction of a second in a Christian’s life – then that is where the cause lies of your inability to have permanent victory over a far greater area of weakness or temptation.
The way to remove the mountain of temptation in your life is to shovel away with God’s help the little mounds of tempting delights.