Avioding Temptation by Michael Josephson

When my daughter Samara was four she pointed to a delicate glass vase and asked, “What’s that?”

“It’s very special,” I answered. “It was my mother’s. I would really feel bad if it ever got broken, so please be careful to never, never touch it.”

Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Then you should never, never put it where I can reach it.”

Her remark reminded me of an Oscar Wilde quote: “I can resist anything but temptation.” Samara understood the power of the temptation and shifted the responsibility to me. If I wanted the vase safe, keep it out of her path. And, of course, she was right. We would both be happier if I didn’t tempt her.

After all, it is easier to avoid than resist temptations. Even people of character can succumb to temptations at weak moments. If you’re on a diet, don’t let them bring out the dessert tray. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t even window shop for things you can’t afford. And if you’re committed to celibacy or fidelity don’t get near situations where your resolve could be tested.

The 19th century English novelist Margaret Oliphant said, “As a general rule, temptations come when they are sought.” If we’re honest with ourselves we would have to admit that many of the morally precarious situations we’ve found ourselves in were not entirely unwelcome. It’s reckless to invite temptation to sit beside us and believe that we will have the strength to say no at the right time.

Michael Josephson

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