Lenten Wisdom From the Desert Day 16

Yesterday was another busy day and another day skipped, however I want to use the saying I had planned to use for yesterday.

It always feels that we have two options in response to any kind of temptation or negative habit in our lives: give in to it, or resist it. I’ve encountered a lot of people, especially online, who ask the questions, “I am doing x and I know it’s bad–how can I stop?” These things are viewed as sinful and often coincide with a larger understanding of salvation that sees God as a Santa Clausian figure, as if God is sitting with a checklist ticking off your sin and your good deeds so that hopefully you come out in the green at the end of your life.

This saying from the Fathers presents a third option which is not simply to resist, but to see that the outward manifestations of our sin (our bad habits, temptations &c) are linked to deeper problems within us. In the end, it all links back to sin, but if we really go digging what can we find out about our temptation? If we procrastinate should we just resist procrastinating, or should we pray and look inward to see that there is some other problem lying underneath.

This quote leads me to think that resistance and rigidity in the face of temptation is no better than giving into it. Accepting that we must dig accepts the temptation as a part of us that needs healing, rather than something we need to chop off completely.

A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemy’s heart.

– Dorotheos of Gaza, b. 505



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