Resisting temptation for the wrong reasons. Does it matter?

Let’s say someone has a craving for chocolate. They are beset by temptations in shops and cafes. They do well to resist these temptations. However, the reason they are resisting temptation is because they want to be skinny like the models in the fashion magazines. The person cuts down on unhealthy food — good — but this very success allows their deeper motivations to remain unexamined.

I am like this with lingerie.

I threw out all my dressing up things at the end of August last year (see Total Purge) and since then have not dressed up or bought any new lingerie. I have felt the temptation, more than once (e.g., Passed a test), but I have successfully resisted — but, perhaps, at least partly, for the wrong reason.

My “wrong reason” is that I don’t like the new crowd, and I don’t want to be associated with them.

I first ventured online as a crossdresser in the mid-2000s. There were various sub-cultures of crossdressers, transvestites, sissies, transgender fetishists, transexuals, etc., and I soon found my place among them.

The “new crowd” is a new subculture that has emerged in the last five years or so. I’ll call them trans activists or TAs. They seem explicitly (though superficially, imho) political, and I think they are belligerent and ugly. I disapprove of them politically, psychologically, philosophically, morally, aesthetically. I find them repulsive.

I think my judgement of these people is correct, especially when judged as a social movement. I have been working on curbing my resentment.

At least part, and perhaps all, of the reason I haven’t gone shopping is that I don’t want other customers, or shop assistants to think I am a TA.

So, I haven’t bought any more knickers, and I can’t see myself shopping while I feel like this — good. The TAs are doing me a favour by being so repulsive. I am using them to get what I want (freedom from this fetish/habit).

On the other hand, … I know I would still like to dress up occasionally. I know if I hadn’t thrown them all out I would have slipped into panties and bra a few times this year. Just recently en route to/from Dad’s I felt a pang of nostalgia walking past Accessorize, gazing longingly at their display of special Christmas knickers.

Perhaps having the reason “I don’t want people to think I’m a TA” is allowing my deeper motivations to remain unexamined. Perhaps that doesn’t matter, and the deeper motivations will fade away. Perhaps those motivations are not so deep after all.

Does it matter that I am resisting temptation for the wrong reasons?

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I don’t know any modern carols


I love this one, which was on a CD I bought last year.

Do you know any nice contemporary carols?

Mission

I’ve just spent a few days in the frozen wastes of the north with my father. He is getting on (in his 70s) and I stay with him every couple of months. I had this idea after his wife (my mother) died in 2013. I want to make sure he’s well, keep him company, make sure he knows I’m available if he needs help, be ready if/when anything crops up. At first he was not keen, but it seems to have grown on him.

We can be a bit of a scratchy family (I have a sister too), but nothing outside a standard deviation from the mean. However, generally, after a couple of days in his company, I have had enough.

Visits have been getting better gradually this year, but this latest visit went especially well.

What went well?

We had a couple of trips out scheduled, so I suggested I could stay an extra day. In the end he pulled out of one of the trips, but I did stay the extra day. I managed to stay the extra day without losing my temper with him or secretly pulling my hair out.

I was disappointed early on. The failed trip out. Also, I had wanted to discuss some admin/finance matters with him, but because my work has been very hectic recently I hadn’t prepared fully, so I had to drop that as well. So I felt I had nothing “to do” while I was there. A wasted trip.

Perhaps that made me feel I had plenty of time. We did very little, and just had a peaceful time together. We watched old TV comedies on DVD, played with his dog, chatted a little. I got up and went to bed early, and provided food at mealtimes (just supermarket ready meals, but quite nice ones), did a bit of cleaning.

Towards the end of my visit, Dad had more colour in his cheeks, was more cheerful, less fretful, and explicitly grateful for my company.

Why did it go well?

I think the early failures were a blessing in disguise. I didn’t have goals I wanted to achieve — which were actually distractions from the better work I could be doing.

The extra day was an extra day of food and regular sleep. It was also an extra day for me (and him) to see the benefits of my actions.

I think I attended to him very closely. Not because I was concentrating, and not entirely because I felt there was time. I was calmer, less directing or interfering. Looking back, my interventions were kind of pre-emptive: e.g. I got the food ready before we were hungry and put it out at just the right time.

With my secular hat on I would say: things have been improving over the last year, and on this visit they crossed a threshold so I noticed; I had the time to see the positive effect I was having and that gave me a boost too.

I also had the luxury of praying every morning when I woke up, and every night at bedtime. I had Mere Christianity with me (which I seem to be re-reading perpetually). I was reading scripture every day. I was writing in my diary every day. So, I was looking after myself in that sense.

I was never distracted or tempted (apart from at a train station on the way up, but that’s another story for another day).

Conclusions & next steps

I crossed another threshold during that visit. I am starting to see the benefit of accepting Jesus, and of spending so much time in His arms. On the way back home I went to a church and prayed thanks to God for His presence and the gift of the visit: on Dad and on me.

This long year — since my Total Purge last August — I have been concentrating on fighting my demons and overcoming bad habits. I’m sure those struggles will continue.

During Advent I am practicising the other side: giving thanks, adoration of God, rejoicing in and enjoying my new-found life. I hope to focus on these things here on the blog more next year.

John 3:19,20

“… that I might be saved through Him”


God did not send Jesus to condemn me. God has put Jesus inside me. His Son. He has filled me with the Spirit. He did not fill me with the Spirit as a condemning voice, to put me down.

God loves me and fills me with His love. The Lord yearns for me to be His — and now I yearn and push to be His too. 

Thank you Lord for your love and your strength. 

John 3:16


I believe. My path to salvation is to really believe: to realise my belief.

#advent

Lust for wife

This will not come as a surprise to readers, but it was a surprise to me.

Since “putting away childish things”, I have recently been having lustful feelings about my wife!

Without really trying, I have been more physically affectionate, and perhaps even forward — a couple of times she has said (good-naturedly), “put me down”. I have caught my eye wandering over her body in a new way (or, at least, a way it hasn’t wandering for many years). A couple of times I have even found myself having sexual fantasies about her.

My wife has noticed some of this, and doesn’t seem to mind that much (“put me down”).

For my part it’s pathetically exciting and feels like strange new territory. I don’t want the moment to pass and fade; on the other hand I don’t want to fumble and drop it.

Dear Lord

This song is actually by John Coltrane, but I prefer Marilyn Crispell’s version. Here is John Coltrane:

Crispell’s reading is a constant yearning and opening. Coltrane’s, lovely as it is, is a jazz tune.

“Dear Lord” is the phrase I use to open a prayer. Sometimes just getting myself calm, clasping my hands into a heart, and saying “Dear Lord” can bring that peaceful prayer feeling on me. Praying is a treat. I do feel selfish giving myself that time. But it has a positive effect on me: it calms me and strengthens me, it helps me love my wife and our son. The nearer I am to prayer, the less snarled up in myself I am.

As any readers will know, I am a creature of habit. I always go to the same restaurants, order the same dishes, even sit at the same tables. I have set myself two prayer times: bedtime, and a short quiet time when I arrive at work (I cycle to work and arrive very early to miss the rush hour traffic).

I realised recently that this might be stopping me from praying at other times, or from praying “on the spur of the moment”. I’ve done two things to nudge me towards prayer outside of my set times.

  1. By chance I finished my diary notebook and have started a new one. I decided that this new diary would be in a New Style. I have been keeping a diary for much longer than I have been a Christian, and that new side of me didn’t show up in the diary very much. In this new diary I am mixing prayers and Bible readings with old-style diary entries, and I am talking to God, and listening to God much more in those pages. I keep this notebook with me and write in it often.
  2. I have downloaded the Universalis Daily Hours app onto my phone. This pings automatically at times throughout the day, and suggests Psalms, readings, prayers and hymns. It reminds me to make contact, pulls me out of me work, and brings prayer into my day.

1 Peter 3:1-4

Second in a two part series! Part One is here: 2 Peter 2.

1 Peter 3:1-4

1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

(ESV)

This is one of those passages that has always made me come over all lefty and feminist. This time approaching the passage I was determined not to read in the same old way. When I read this time, I was struck by the idea of providing an example, rather than giving verbal admonishments — words were like the superficial decorations mentioned in verse 3, while conduct was like the gentle & quiet spirit of verse 4. I didn’t think of wife vs husband; I thought of myself being an example to my wife (and to myself).

Then I read the reading notes, which drew attention to the “even if some do not obey the word” in verse 1:

However, I think Peter might’ve had a specific group of women in mind when he was speaking these words —– wives who were married to unbelievers —– though every woman or man can learn from his teachings on submission here.

I am married to an unbeliever!

Going back again to read the passage, reading verses 3 & 4 broke a wave of upset and confusion over me:

3 Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing — 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

(ESV)

3 Your beauty should lie, not in outward adornment — braiding the hair, wearing gold ornaments, or dressing up in fine clothes — 4 but in the inmost self, with its imperishable quality of a gentle, quiet spirit, which is of high value on the sight of God.

(REB)

I didn’t realise it at the time, but each time I returned to the text I was reading it more and more “as” the wife. And then I hit the end of verse 3: “the putting on of clothing”; the REB actually says “dressing up” which is the phrase I use on this blog.

My thinking (if you can call it that – emoting) went like this:

“… the putting on of clothing”, “dressing up in fine clothes”

  • what kind of clothing would I be putting on, as a wife? That is the clothing I’d like to be putting on;
  • the language “the putting on” seems to focus on the activity itself: stepping into the “fine clothes”, and the relief and safety I feel;

“Do not let your adorning be external”

  • for me these adornments are not external, they are carefully hidden and private, and associated with a secret (snowflake) “inmost self”

I don’t think I ended up with any message, but the reading I was constructing was so obviously at variance with any “correct” reading, I found it very upsetting — out of nowhere.

I think perhaps I was primed for something like this to happen as I’d been doing a lot of online “window shopping”: some business trips, and some wife & son absences, were coming up. (I didn’t buy anything in the end.)

Why do I want to recount all this here?

  • I was surprised and still am at how shocked and moved I was by this confrontation with Scripture.
  • The power and the shock only happened because I was reading the Scripture as part of a group.
  • The strength of this response shows me, I think, how this “dressing up” habit is much closer to my heart, more a part of me, than my other Bad Habits.

Step away from the phone

Reading a couple of nice posts on Lisa Notes (Where’s Your Phone Right Now?, Is Your Phone Changing You?) has inspired me to tone up my resistance to the time sink that is social media.

Thankfully I dislike Facebook (the software creeps me out and the UI is ugly) so there is little danger of my becoming addicted to it. I do like to follow blogs, but it’s always either a topic or a person I follow, so there’s no sprawling network of endless connections beckoning. Email is just part of my work. However, for me Twitter is like Heroin. I’m sure I could spend whole days surfing around Twitter. So for me “Social Media” really means Twitter.

I do use SM for a reason — to share information, to find things out, to “keep up to date”. How often do I need to login to fulfill those functions? Not really more than once or twice a day. Set a frequency and stick to it.

The mobile phone has become a ubiquitous general-purpose information and time-passing device, always “relevant”, designed to be pawed and fondled.

My main “don’ts”:

  • SM should not be the first reading of the day. First reading should be on actual paper (the newspaper, magazines).
  • In fact, no SM till after breakfast.
  • SM should not be an on/off ramp activity (e.g. when I arriving or winding up at work)
  • Don’t use the phone as general purpose life companion. Find ways to push againt this. For example, I have started wearing my old wristwatch — instead of using the phone as a kind of pocket watch.
  • I should not reach for the phone when bored, or in those spare, empty moments (e.g., waiting for rice to cook). We get a daily newspaper, and weekly and monthly magazines, puzzle magazines, … there are plenty of ways to while away time that do not involve the phone. I could even read a Psalm.
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