Young People Ask
How Can I Resist Temptation?
◼ Karen is at the party for no more than ten minutes when she sees two boys arrive carrying several large paper bags. What’s in those bags is no mystery. Earlier, she had overheard the same boys saying that there would be “lots of booze” at this party. Karen didn’t mention that to her parents, of course. She told herself that the boys were just joking. After all, there were supposed to be some adults in this house—somewhere.
Suddenly, Karen hears a familiar voice behind her. “What are you just standing there for, you party pooper?” Karen turns to see her friend Jessica clutching two freshly opened bottles of beer. Jessica holds one right in front of Karen’s face and says, “Now don’t tell me you’re too young to have a little fun!”
Karen wants to refuse. But the pressure to accept is more powerful than she expected. It’s not about the alcohol. It’s just that Jessica is her friend, and Karen doesn’t want to come across as a party pooper, as Jessica called her. Besides, Jessica’s one of the good girls. And if she’s drinking, then what’s the big deal? ‘It’s just a beer,’ Karen tells herself. ‘It’s not like taking drugs or having sex.’
WHEN you’re young, temptation comes in many forms. Often, it involves the opposite sex. “The girls at school are aggressive,” says 17-year-old Ramon.* “They like to touch you and to see how far they can go with you. They won’t take no for an answer!” Deanna, also 17, has had a similar experience. “One boy came up to me and put his arm around me,” she says. “I punched him in his arm and said, ‘What are you doing? I don’t even know you!’”
You too may face temptations, and it may seem that the pressure just won’t let up. As one Christian put it, “temptation is like a continuous knock at your door that ignores the Do Not Disturb sign.” Do you hear that knock more often than you’d like? For example, do any of the following tempt you?
□ Drinking alcohol
□ Taking drugs
□ Looking at pornography
□ Engaging in immoral sex
□ Other ․․․․․
If you checked off any of the above, don’t conclude that you’re just not cut out to be a Christian. You can learn to control wrong desires and to resist temptation. How? It helps to recognize what’s behind temptation. Consider three factors.
1. Imperfection. The inclination to do wrong is common to all imperfect humans. Even the apostle Paul—a mature Christian—candidly admitted: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me.” (Romans 7:21) Clearly, even the most upright person will occasionally become aware of “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes.” (1 John 2:16) But dwelling on enticements to do wrong only makes matters worse, for the Bible says: “Desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin.”—James 1:15.
2. External influences. Temptation is everywhere you look. “At school and at work, people talk about sex all the time,” says Trudy. “On TV and in movies, it’s always made to seem so glamorous, so exciting. You rarely see the negative consequences!” Trudy knows from experience how powerful such influences can be. “I thought I was in love at 16,” she recalls. “My mother sat down with me and told me that if things kept going the way they were, I would end up pregnant. I was horrified that my mom would think such a thing! Two months later, I was pregnant.”
3. “The desires incidental to youth.” (2 Timothy 2:22) That phrase can include any desire that is typical while young, such as the craving for acceptance or the yearning to forge your own identity. Those desires aren’t wrong in themselves, but if left unchecked, they can make temptation harder to resist. For example, the longing for your own identity could drive you to turn against good values you’ve been taught at home. That’s what happened to Steve at age 17. He says, “I rebelled against my parents and did anything and everything they had taught me not to do—all this shortly after being baptized.”
Admittedly, the forces described above are powerful. Nevertheless, you can resist temptation. How?
◼ First, identify the temptation that exerts the strongest pull on you. (You may already have done this above.)
◼ Next, ask yourself, ‘When is this temptation most likely to occur?’ Check off one of the following:
□ While at school
□ While at work
□ When alone
□ Other ․․․․․
Knowing when temptation is likely to occur might even help you to avoid it altogether. For example, consider the imaginary scenario at the beginning of this article. What warning did Karen have that there would be trouble at the gathering she attended? How could she have avoided the temptation in the first place?
◼ Now that you’ve (1) identified the temptation and (2) determined when it is likely to occur, you’re ready to take action. Your first priority is to figure out how to minimize or eliminate contact with the temptation. Write below what you could do.
(Examples: If after school you regularly encounter schoolmates who urge you to smoke with them, perhaps you could alter your route to avoid crossing their path. If you often receive unsolicited Internet pornography, you might consider installing programs to block the source and all similar sites. Also, you could be more specific in the key words you enter in a search engine.)
Of course, you can’t avoid all temptations. Sooner or later, you will probably be confronted with a particularly powerful enticement—perhaps when you least expect it. What can you do about that?
Be prepared. When Jesus was “being tempted by Satan,” his rebuff was immediate. (Mark 1:13) Why? Because he already knew where he stood on the issues that arose. Think about that. Jesus wasn’t a robot. He could have yielded to temptation. But he had already resolved to obey his Father at all times. (John 8:28, 29) Jesus really meant it when he said: “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 6:38.
Write in the spaces below two reasons why you should resist the temptation you most often face and two ways you resolve to resist.
Remember, when you give in to temptation, you become a slave to your desires. (Titus 3:3) Why allow yourself to be controlled by your cravings? Have the maturity to control your urges rather than allow your urges to control you.—Colossians 3:5.
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Names in this article have been changed.
TO THINK ABOUT
[Box on page 27]
TRY THIS EXPERIMENT
Take a compass, and position it so that the needle points north. Now place a magnet at the side of the compass. What happens? The needle no longer gives an accurate reading. Instead, it is turned toward the magnet.
Your conscience is like that compass. If properly trained, it will point “north” and help you to make wise decisions. But harmful association, like a magnet, exerts a pull that can distort your moral judgment. The lesson? Try to avoid people and situations that may throw your moral sense off course!—Proverbs 13:20.
[Box on page 27]
Plan out responses you can use when someone tries to tempt you into wrongdoing. Don’t worry. You don’t have to come across as self-righteous. Often, a simple, confident refusal is all that’s needed. For example, if a schoolmate offers you a cigarette, you could say: “Don’t waste it on me. I don’t smoke!”
[Picture on page 28]
When you give in to temptation, you become a slave to your own desires