Temptation Traps

The Devil Tempting a Young Woman by André Jacques Victor Orsel, 1832.

The Devil Tempting a Young Woman by André Jacques Victor Orsel, 1832.

We human beings are creatures of habit. For better or worse, we find it easier to think and act in the ways that we are accustomed to. Without self-awareness, it can feel natural to follow established modes of thinking into sinful action. However, once we examine and challenge these temptations we can recognize them as the distortions of truth and reality that they are. Then, with God’s ever-present grace, we can choose and act to reject them.

We experience temptations as the thoughts, feelings, and desires that, if not resisted, would lead us away from God’s will and our greatest human fulfillment. And from where do our temptations flow? They come, as the classic saying goes, from “the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.” The World, our culture and the people around us, can suggest sinful paths. Likewise our Flesh, our passions and psychological wounds, can give rise to temptation. Finally, the Devil, with the fallen angels allied with him, can prompt ideas and moods within us in order to lead us towards sin. If we are to resist temptations we must first detect them amidst our thoughts, feelings, and desires.

The distorted thinking of our temptations comes to us in many forms. Do you fall for any of these common temptation traps? Study these and enter your next battle prepared, forewarned and forearmed!

 

Overgeneralization reaches a general conclusion based upon a single incident or piece of evidence:

I just got dumped. I’ll never find love!

God didn’t grant my prayer. He doesn’t care.”

I never hire those people, one stole from me once.

 

All-or-Nothing Thinking has no tolerance or mercy for imperfection in ourselves or others:

I broke my Lenten penance, so I’ve given it up.”

I sinned, so my hours of resisting mean nothing.

I’ve never spoken to him since he was rude to me.”

 

Mental Filtering focuses on a situation’s negative details while dismissing all of the positive aspects:

Yes, Son, but what about this B- in Science?

When I look back on my day, all I see are sins.

They said they liked it, but what she said irks me.”

 

Labeling generalizes from a couple of traits or events to declare a universal negative judgment:

I need to lose some weight. I’m ugly.

I never do anything right; I’m worthless.

I’m taking more naps as I get older. I’m so lazy.”

 

Mind Reading presumes to know (without asking) how others feel or why they act as they do:

I know I promised, but the kids won’t mind.”

He’s late. He must not care about this team.”

Her eyes are closed. She’s not listening to me.”

 

Magnifying exaggerates the significance of problems or events:

I’ll never finish this paper by next week!

I did bad things in a dream. I’m so ashamed.

I prayed an hour, but I kept getting distracted!

 

Minimizing downplays serious concerns to insignificance:

A little peek at this website is no big deal.

This habit is a venial sin, so it’s OK if I do it.

Why are you complaining? My drinking is fine.”

 

Catastrophizing assumes the worst about the present and the future:

What if I lose my job, get sick, and die?

I’ll never conquer this sin—why even try?

He’s moody tonight. Is our marriage in trouble?

 

Personalization believes everything that happens is caused by, or is a reaction to, oneself:

I jinxed the team, I didn’t wear my hat.”

This happened because God is punishing me.”

I saw my two friends; why didn’t they invite me?”

 

False Shoulds condemn us for weaknesses or choices that are not actually sins:

I should always keep my family happy.”

I sinned by missing Mass when I had the flu.”

It still hurts, so I must not be forgiving them.”

 

Emotional Reasoning concludes that how we presently feel must be the true reflection of reality:

I feel so sad, I must be failing.”

This feels so good, how could it be wrong?”

I feel guilty; God must be unhappy with me.”

 

If this topic interests you, check out Cognitive Behavior Therapy and “cognitive distortions.” CBT is the most widely-used technique for the treatment of many psychological issues (such as depression and anxiety) and is proven to be often effective.

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