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Overcoming temptation: Science endorses the Pastor Adeboye option.


      Irish writer Oscar Wilde, who became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s, is noted to have said: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
There is no clear connection between his attitude to temptation and what befell him, but he is remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novels, as well as the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death. He was convicted of sodomy.
According to reports, his health had suffered greatly from the harshness and diet of prison. When he had a feeling of spiritual renewal, he immediately wrote to the “Society of Jesus” requesting a six-month Catholic retreat; and when the request was denied, Wilde wept. He spent his last three years in impoverished exile.
Examples of fallen heroes and heroines show that temptation, generally described as a desire to engage in short-term urges for enjoyment that threatens long-term goals, is not a thing to toy with. In the context of some religions, temptation is the inclination to sin. There are reports of the following examples:
Jimmy Swaggart
A Pentecostal “televangelist” in the American South, Swaggart was known for his hard-line Christian conservative stance and hell-fire sermons.
Swaggart was caught twice with prostitutes, once in 1986, and again in 1991. The first woman even revealed that Swaggart expressed an interest in her 13-year-old daughter. Swaggart inspired the pop song God Only Knows, by the UK band.
Isaac Hunter
Hunter, a former pastor in a Florida mega-church, committed suicide. Hunter, whose father, Joel Hunter has been a spiritual adviser to Barack Obama since 2008, was exposed for having an affair with a member of the church.
His wife, Rhonda Hunter, was granted a restraining order after petitioning that, “I currently fear for my life and the lives of our three children. Isaac is unstable and has demonstrated erratic behavior, alcohol abuse, and fits of rage.”
According to court documents, Hunter’s family found an undated suicide note on his computer with instructions to Summit Church on what should be done “If I die,” written before his 35th birthday on April 26.
“I would very much like to be remembered as a person who loved his children, his parents, his brothers, and his best friends—well, while I could,” Hunter wrote. “I fear I will love them better in my absence. As I have become what I never wished to be, a burden on those I love the most.”
Jim Bakker
Bakker was one of the best known televangelists in the US. He pioneered Christian television in 52 nations as well as founding Heritage School of Evangelism, Heritage Academy and related schools. Bakker was forced to resign as a minister after a woman accused him of raping her, and a subsequent embezzlement scandal landed him in jail for six years. The lady, Jessica Hahn, alleged that she had been raped by Bakker in 1980, when she was 21. He acknowledged that he had once had sex with her, but insisted that it was consensual.
Even the late Billy Graham visited him in prison. True story! This is Bakker’s account of the visit in a reported interview: “Billy Graham’s visit was the biggest surprise because he is such a busy man. A few days before he arrived he had been voted the most respected man in the world. I heard that on my little radio in prison. He came just a few days before I found out that my wife was divorcing me. So I think it was God preparing me for that moment.
“When he came to visit me I had the flu. I looked like a man who had slept under a bridge. My hair was a mess and I had my old toilet-cleaning clothes on. My toes were sticking out of my shoes. I had just finished cleaning the toilets, and the guards came to get me. One of the guards led me across the compound, and I thought he was taking me to the lieutenant’s office. I thought maybe I was in trouble. But then they said, “Didn’t they tell you. Billy Graham is here to see you.” So I walked into the room and he had his arms outstretched and he embraced me and told me he loved me. We sat and talked, and when he prayed everyone else in the room prayed. When you feel like you’re worthless, and then somebody like that comes, it really shocking.”
Indeed, scientific studies have shown that temptation is harder to resist than we think. That may be why experienced people like Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God recommend fleeing as the best solution to temptation – rather than believing in our strength or toughness.
He says, “Some people take it as an act of cowardice to run from those they feel sexually attracted to. No! It is not cowardice, it is wisdom! God knows how He wired your body, so if He says you should run in a particular situation, please run for your dear life!”
The pastor and a renown mathematician has been proved right even by scientists who are wont to dismiss spiritual reality as lacking empirical evidence.
The psychology of temptation
Psychologists explain that temptation follows a fairly standard, yet powerful, process. It starts as a desire, but human nature is to have a taste of what we tend to desire so much. So, we play with it in our mind, imagining how we would feel if we have it.
It is also curious of human nature that no matter how blessed we are, we tend to focus on the one thing we do not have! Next, the thought builds until it finally gives way to full-blown desire. It becomes compulsive, rendering our response impulsive. We are no longer content simply to enjoy the object in our mind; now, we must actually have it.
An expert explains it this way: “Temptation usually begins in the mind, where we live out an active fantasy life. The human mind has the capacity to create entire conversations and experiences out of nothing. Through fantasy, we can enjoy something without ever bringing it into the real world.
Over time, fantasy becomes boring, and one feels a need for a more gratifying fulfillment. Ultimately, our thoughts are so wrapped around the one temptation that it seems impossible to think of anything else. When that happens, our mind is held captive by the desire. And whenever our life becomes intently focused on it we are trapped.”
At this point, all the boast about strong will-power, self-regulation and the ability to withstand temptation vanishes in smoke. Scientists explain this. Studies have shown that self regulation, our strength to inhibit impulses, make decisions, persist at difficult tasks, and control emotions can be spent just like a muscle that has been lifting heavy weights.
Sadly, in being vulnerable to doing the wrong we tend to be unaware that we are in a moment of weakness, unlike the strain and fatigue we feel in our muscles after a workout.
A clergyman sees the vulnerability this way: “The devil masks his deceptions in beautiful packages that appeal to our natural senses and desires. He promises that there will be no repercussions for indulging in sinful practices that God clearly says will end in destruction.
Before yielding to the devil’s temptations, we should always consider the consequences that will inevitably follow. But the last thing the devil wants us to think about is the devastating outcome of sin. That’s why he tempts us to minimize our sin by claiming that nobody is perfect or that we just made a mistake.”
The battle in our brains
According to studies, the problem is not with your brain as a whole, but with a battle for dominance between two parts of it: the nucleus accumbens (where the good times roll) and the inferior frontal gyrus (where the bouncer lives).
Scientists explain the way those two regions settle their differences will determine—at least partly—how well any one person avoids overindulging. In a recent study, the people who had had the greatest reaction in the part of the brain for good times indulged significantly more than the people whose inferior frontal gyrus did a better job of maintaining control. It is said that the battle between the two regions can be fierce, but obviously continuous exposure to the object of temptation strengthens the former, while fleeing will have an opposite effect.
The failure of self-control
In recent years, both behavioural scientists and neuroscientists have shed more light on why self-control is a sort of finite resource – something that can be exhausted when you exercise it too long in the same way you can do only so many pushups before collapsing.
A research from the Kellogg School of Management demonstrates that individuals believe they have more restraint than they actually possess–ultimately leading to poor decision-making.
The study, led by Loran Nordgren found the sample, on average, displayed a “restraint bias,” causing individuals to miscalculate the amount of temptation they could truly handle, in turn leading to a greater likelihood of indulging impulsive behaviour.
“People are not good at anticipating the power of their urges, and those who are the most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation,” said Nordgren. “The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive and, most importantly, for individuals to keep a humble view of their willpower.”
In other words, flee from “any situation where vices and other weaknesses thrive.” Flee from the stimulus, psychologists would say.
Dr Charles Stanley does not think man is enslaved to temptation. “Many people act as if there’s no defense against temptation,” he says.“At the first hint of desire, they throw their hands up and give in. What they fail to recognize is that enticement is a process, and processes can be short-circuited at any stage.”



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