Lead Us Not into Temptation

When I was a popular 13-year-old eighth grader at a privileged public middle school in glamtastic Southern California I shocked my parents silly.

I requested to be driven across the bridge to take the placement exams for an all-girls-Catholic, uniform-wearing high school in the larger San Diego area. They complied with my request and I actually ended up attending that Catholic school as a freshman. What I did not tell my parents was that this school switch was an attempt to escape the temptations I knew would face me in the local public high school. This local high school was a total 90210 scene. My peers grew up really fast in that school – drugs, sex, appearance obsession – it was all there. I avoided most of that temptation across the bridge. Our Lady of Peace was no bastion of angelic teenage women, but it was not as full of the temptations as the local high school. To this day, when I go home and visit my parents, several of my childhood friends marvel at the different path my life took from their lives and even laud me for avoiding many of the pitfalls into which they dipped. But, did I really make the hard choices or did I simply run and hide?

In the Gospel of Matthew, when the apostles asked Our Lord how they should pray, He gave them a very concrete answer. He gave us the Our Father. The last sentence implores, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” Well, I have been pondering the idea of avoiding and eliminating temptation in my life and even wondering if I might be taking things too far?

 For example, I must access the internet from a desktop…. atop a desk… within our apartment. That’s right, just like we all did it 10 years ago. We have enough disposable income to buy a few IPad Minis, but I simply cannot handle it. It would be too hard for me to limit my internet time if it was in the car or on the playground with us, I just know that about myself. I have always thought of myself as a self-disciplined individual, but something about the rigors of being a stay-at-home-mother of many children seems to have stripped me of my discipline reserves. Want to know another temptation I would never be able to resist: a video game console of any sort. I have a 5-year-old-boy who is absolutely nuts. Nuts in a good way: happy-go-lucky-smiling-blue-eyes-climb-off-the-balcony-instead-of-going-out-the-door-nuts. He also loves video games. I cannot even begin to contemplate how much laundry I could get done or how much toy pick-up I could spare myself if I plugged him and his 3-year-old counterpart into a Sega (is that still something?). Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to come off sounding sanctimonious. I have nothing against limited usage of video games.. I just know that I am too weak to accomplish the requisite limitations. For example, I recently heard wonderful friends talking about how they use their game systems as rewards for room cleaning or only when Daddy is home. These ideas sound genius, but nope, I am too weak. For me, a shower would be a good enough reason, and then oh, just one more sinkful of dishes and then… But, what if I am not training these boys to plan their time, to resist temptation, to work before play? What if I am selfishly keeping something out of my home to avoid whining when I could use it as a real teaching aid?

The most frightening thought to trickle across my cerebrum lately is, what if this is exactly why I homeschool? What if my attempts to shield these little people from the temptations of bad language and behavior and priorities amongst their school peers is setting them up to fail later on? What if I am enabling them to hide? Furthermore, I know that I am totally the type of mom who would get overly involved in every aspect of their schools at the detriment of our home life, so I have avoided even entering that tempting world of PTA and social bake sales for myself as well.  Recently, my husband (who is insanely pro-homeschooling, even the bad way I do it) allayed my fears by offering up the example of the Our Father. He reassured me that Jesus said it is ok to ask not to be lead into temptation, so why can’t we structure our lives in such a way? My response was that then it is difficult to be salt and light and that we are never going to be living on a Catholic compound. So, the internal debate rages on. How do you find a balance between a) teaching your children and yourself healthy ways to manage temptation and b) protecting yourself and those you love from an onslaught that could lead to sinful choices?

Nice and light for a Monday..

  • Katrina

    Welcome back, friend! Oooooh, this is a good topic :) There is much to be written, but first I’m going to take some time to reflect. Thanks for your thought-provoking words!

  • JMB

    Your children are still very young and at this point there is a lot that you can control. However, it doesn’t stay that way forever. I pray for my children every day. I offer up the Eucharist for them when I go to Mass. I’ve been humbled in my life by some bad choices that my children have made but it is also an opportunity to learn how to truly love your children, not just because they are “good” and “behaving” but because they are. People make mistakes all the time. My poor nephew (good kid, A student at top notch boarding school) got expelled his senior year. This wasn’t supposed to happen to people like us. I think you have to just remind yourself over and over again that your children aren’t a reflection of you or your ego or your hard work. Sometimes things go wrong and there is nothing you can do to stop it, other than try to pick up the pieces in your child’s life and help put them back together. God loves our children way more than we do and He does have a plan for them.

    • awolmommy

      JMB, I always appreciate your frank feedback, and you are so right, these kids are not ours but God’s. Thank you.

  • Kathy

    Welcome back AWOL Mommy! I would think that your choice to attend the Catholic high school so that you were not led astray is “leading (you) not into temptation”. As for the computer/video stuff – you know how you are as a person, you own that knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses and you set you and your children up for success. It would be better if we all planned for success.

    • awolmommy

      thanks, Kathy. “planning for success” is a real Army phrase, so I like that one

  • Steph

    For some reason, my very first thought is 1 Cornithians 10:23: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

    To me, that means that we make choices which edify. While there may be nothing wrong with this or that thing, it may not edify and protect you or your children, and, rather than hiding, you’re making a good choice. As Sister Bridgette (my favorite nun) used to tell us…the best way to avoid sexual temptation is to not be alone with a boy.

    I have thought back on my teenage years, people who I would have liked to get to know more (because I found them interesting) but when the opportunity arose, I held back. There is no doubt that spending time with them might have changed my life (hanging out with the professor’s kid might have expanded my blue collar worldview) but when they opportunity arose, I was reluctant and didn’t do it. Now, I feel like I was protected because it could have gone badly for me, though I’ll never know.

    Maybe the bottom line is to let your kids now how you choose, as an example, so that they can choose to protect themselves when the opportunity arises. And to always remember to ask for direction from the Holy Spirit–”is this something I need to shy away from or confront head on?”

    • awolmommy

      Steph, love the verb “edify” I am going to focus on that around here. and you are not the first to advise me to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, so you must be on to something.

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Katrina

    “Furthermore, I know that I am totally the type of mom who would get overly involved in every aspect of their schools at the detriment of our home life, so I have avoided even entering that tempting world of PTA and social bake sales for myself as well.”
    I hear you, sister! I think that both my husband and I have over-committed, to the detriment of family life, at various points in our marriage, and we have been slowly learning what works and what doesn’t work for us. One tactic that we have taken is that we try to choose volunteer activities that allow us to be together as a family, or that require our attention at times that will not detract from family life. For example, I can volunteer at the school carnival and have my children come with me to help, but I’m not going to be the PTA president because it would be too much at this point. I have also realized that I need some time with other adults, however, so I participate in a couple of Bible studies and a mothers’ group at our church. We are blessed to have a parish that offers a wonderful nursery, so my 3 year-old goes to the nursery a couple of times a week while I participate in these activities. I know that I am a better mom when I am able to fellowship with others, so I think that this trade-off is worthwhile.
    As the kids get older, I think that it is possible to include them in the decision-making about what activities your family does or doesn’t participate in. It also gets easier to read their non-verbal cues – for example, there was a period of time during my last pregnancy when one of my children could not fall asleep with a babysitter. This child was very anxious about my safety while I was pregnant, and would call us in tears, begging us to come home. I prayed about it and felt that this child needed me at home for this period of time (my pregnancy), so I decided that our nights out would be very limited. Just something to think about.

  • awolmommy

    Hey, were you a psychology major or something? This is good stuff. I think you have a little bit more faith in your children than I do in mine, I don’t know if that has to do with our temperaments as mothers or the temperaments of our children, but I am going to learn from your tender ways. In general, I feel tentative about involving my eight-year-old in decisions because she recently told Grandma that she would prefer to go to the Army school up the hill so that she could spend more time with her stairwell buddy, Grace. Not so sure that perspective has legitimacy as of yet..

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Awol, I love that you are wrestling with this, seeking the best choices in your mothering and overall life. You are intentionally living which is such a beautiful thing to read about. I second the idea of the Holy Spirit–pray a lot for direction and let Him lead you! I also agree that you know yourself and your necessary limits, so if its working, go with it! You can always change courses later. Teach your kids flexibility–to bloom where they’re planted, whether at a homeschool in Germany or at a Catholic school in San Diego. I would aim toward teaching them the virtues that can be applied in any life scenario, good or bad. Fleeing from temptation, though, is always a wise, wise thing, friend. You are simply helping yourself stay on the straight and narrow the best way you know how. Bravo! Even a sheltered life will be wrought with temptations and opportunities to learn. You’re doing a great job. xo

  • Twinsplus1

    I wouldn’t overthink this…. I have always felt that if I’m asking God over and over again not to lead me into temptation, and if He is perfect and true to His word in a way that I can only aspire to be, then whatever temptation I find myself in must have somehow been brought on by my own actions, or inactions. It seems like a life actively built in avoidance of these temptations cannot be sinful (at least not because of that reason!).

    And as for the modern conveniences, I fall wholly into your camp. I am a working mom with 3 young boys and what precious time I have with them I refuse to surrender to TV, DVDs and iPads. Again, no judgement as I could have chosen a life where I was at home with them but it is a discipline to keep them entertained and if I allowed myself those diversions I fear I would never invest the time to watch their spirits develop. These years are short and so much shorter if measured in the minutes between the train home and bedtime.

  • Kellie “Red”

    I don’t really think you can go wrong with banning video games. Even the best of boys have self control issues in this department, and honestly, video games have very little value. Your boys will get enough experience with them outside of your home, so I really wouldn’t waste time worrying about that choice.

    I agree that in general we should flee from temptation. BUT, and here is the big BUT, we must also pray for grace to have balance in our daily lives, and to call upon the Holy Spirit for wisdom in the areas where we are uncertain. So, for example, not volunteering at a single thing for a child’s school because you are afraid of being overcomitted isn’t very balanced ;-) And likewise, while sheltering may be one good reason in favor of homeschooling, it shouldn’t be the only reason. We should never make choices based on fear, but rather because of love.

    Like so many things in life, we need to control what we can with wise choices, and then leave the rest up to the grace of God. Lots of hard work, and then lots of prayer!

  • Juris Mater

    AWOL, this is a great topic. Thank you!

    I proudly check email only from my desktop also. No devices, texting, facebook, or video games. Low-tech here and proud of it. We’re not going down that road… we’re not far from the day when the masses will have computer chips implanted into their brains and experience life only through blinking screens. But that’s a topic for another day : )

    I would tend to be over-committed at school too, because I think it’s all so fun, but having a baby every year has cured that temptation! : )

    • awolmommy

      I think PTA bakesales are easier than natural childbirth, but I am not sure.

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com Mary Alice

    There is a lot of data on the addictive nature of video games, so I think it is wise to hold off, but the instinct is right that our children need to learn temperance, and they can learn this in lots of other areas. They can even learn it with screen time in other ways at home, my kids just use PBS Kids games online, but they can get “lost” there for a long time, ignore the beeping timer to just finish one more level, etc. You can teach temperance with regard to food, ordered work and play, etc.

    We can discuss temptation with our children, and those temptations, as they get older, that we know will be very serious and dangers (drugs, excess alcohol, the hook up culture, video game and porn addiction in college boys), but since we cannot anticipate everything that they will encounter, I think that the best bet is to try to instill the virtues that will help them to make the good choices on their own. And pray the rosary.


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