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The Use of Temptation

People whose thoughts do not carry them far are apt to look upon, and think of temptation as a hindrance to the living of a better life, as a burden or a cross which must be borne, and from which there is no release, no escape but death.

But all who will take the trouble to think deeper on this subject will come to see and know that far from its being a trouble and a hindrance, temptation like all things in and around us has its use, and to all who seek its use and endeavor to carry it into effect it becomes a blessing and a help; indeed, until we recognize it as such we shall never rise above it.

When a man has resolved to reform his habits and change his course of living for the better, temptation quickly comes his way, and if he recognizes its use it soon becomes of the greatest benefit to him, he will welcome it and by its aid will further his good ends.

If he succeeds in overcoming it he will have gained that amount of strength which was needed, and will have taken a step forward, but if he fails and yields, he should still strive, and continue to try by self-examination to discover the true cause of failure within himself, and having found it, seek to remove it. Thus he will discover just how much he is deficient in strength, and will never be satisfied till he has gained it.

Whether he fails or succeeds, it is a forward step if used aright, but either success or failure is a backward step if used unwisely.

It is necessary to our progress that we should be tempted, for only thus can the sinner become good, and the good man better. Nevertheless temptation should not be sought, but as much as possible avoided, for it will require one to develop as much, and perhaps more, strength to avoid as to overcome it.

Temptation, when it presents itself as a difficulty, should be met and overcome by fleeing from it, and then it imparts great strength to the overcomer. As an attraction claiming the attention, and tending to draw one away from higher things, it should be shunned, and, like weeds and poisonous fruits, it should be left to die by the wayside, unnoticed, untasted, and utterly abandoned by the seeker after Truth.

It is necessary for the progress of the race that temptation is with us. Like the separating machine which parts the cream from the milk; or the thrashing machine which by much winnowing at last divides the precious grain from the husks; or again, like the refiner's fire which by great heat melts the ore and parts its constituents, the pure metal settling at the bottom, the dross rising to the surface from which it is easily cleared, so temptation, by reason of its retarding and restraining qualities, separates the good from the bad among men.

The man who thinks and acts accordingly, knows the great benefits that temptation brings when it comes unsought. He knows it to be there for his good, and is able to advance spiritually by the many successes and failures which the contest will bring.

He will neither be driven to despair nor sorrowed by defeat, nor be so overjoyed with success as to think his work done, and so be taken off his guard. He will not seek it nor struggle with it, but will meet it, deal with it, and pass it quickly.

It appears to him as a friend and helper or better still as a teacher who rough, stern and exacting, yet has his pupil's welfare at heart, who helps and teaches by trying and testing, as the good workman tries and tests his tools and work.

By the yieldings, as also by the conquests, the aspirant is undecieved, and sets to work afresh in the new knowledge of the power of good over evil, and so he goes on from trial to trial, from strength to strength, until at last the height achieved, the journey ended, behold a man stout of heart and self-reliant!

Temptation and trial do not cause man's weakness; they only show if it is there.
Oppose kindness to perverseness; the sharp sword will not cut soft silk.
—The Sacred Anthology

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Oswald Godman

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