“Why everything that’s supposed to bad make me feel so good?”—Kanye West
For the most part, I’m very capable of not giving into temptation. I think about all of the consequences and repercussions of my actions and scare myself into doing the “right thing.” While that works (most of the time), I sometimes question what life would be like if I actually gave in to my urges.
Around the age of 6 is when you pretty much know right from wrong. You know not to steal those Pokémon cards from the grocery store. But sometimes knowing right from wrong isn’t enough to stop you from doing wrong. If it were enough, my mom wouldn’t have whooped my behind when she found out I took my friends joyriding in her brand new car 15 years ago.
Giving into temptation certainly seems like a lot more fun than the straight and narrow. We get a thrill from indulging in the forbidden, and it’s a perfect appeal to our need for excitement. Despite those “benefits,” temptation usually always ends up complicating things, especially when it comes to love.
Recently, I got a phone call from my friend Rochelle. (Not her real name.) Her level of excitement was ridiculous, and Rochelle only gets geeked about two things: music and new boos. She proceeded to tell me that she found the “perfect” guy, and that they’ve been seeing each other for almost a month. No one has ever made her feel the way that he does and the sex is off the chain.
But there was one major issue: Rochelle just discovered that her best friend also dated “Mr. Right” a few years ago. How she didn’t know this is beyond me, because my BFF knows me through and through. But somehow, this one guy managed to slip past their many conversations about love, sex and other things.
To me, this was a no-brainer. If the BFF dated or screwed someone, they were off limits. We’re close but not that damn close. Still, me and Rochelle are different people. And time does have a way of changing things. I told Rochelle to be honest with her best friend and tell her how deeply she felt for the guy. Who knows? Her friend might not give a damn, since she was happy in another relationship, and a lot of time had passed since she was involved with the guy.
After weeks of conversation, Rochelle took my advice and found out that frankly, the situation did make her friend uncomfortable. “I’m not going to tell you what decision to make, but I do feel weird about it.”
This wasn’t the response Rochelle wanted, especially since she’d developed strong feelings for “Mr. Right” by the time she mentioned it to her BFF. They ceased sexual intercourse (out of respect for her friend), but he’d come over and they would talk or watch a movie or cuddle when he could get away from his girlfriend. Yes, he had a girlfriend. But he was “really unhappy.” (SMH.)
On top of being in a relationship and having dated Rochelle’s best friend who supposedly meant the world to her, he was unemployed. UN-EM-PLOYED. All of the signs pointed to run. Yet and still, Rochelle continued to not just flirt with temptation, but perform a full-fledged head dive into it.
Honestly, none of us can judge Rochelle. She was just doing what comes naturally to all of us, which is what she wants to do. That’s what temptation is: the desire to do something that we want to do. But at some point, self-control and logic must come into play. If everyone went around doing what he or she wanted to do all of the time, the world would be a very selfish place.
I told Rochelle that if she kept playing with fire, she would get burned. For now, they talk on the phone, spend time together and “tempt” each other with ideas of being together if things were different. “Shantell, I’m in love with him, but I can’t be with him.” That’s what I hear at least once a week. We’re on week 21.
The thing about temptation is that usually all of the signs of why we should not do something are there. But for some reason, the very action we know we shouldn’t do is so damn appealing. It’s like you're driving a car in the wrong direction, but refusing to pumps the brakes and re-adjust your path.
Temptation may not hit us in the form of a best friend’s ex, but trust and believe we all get tempted. Tempted to call off work. Tempted to eat that slice of double chocolate cake knowing we’re supposed to be on a diet. Tempted to claim someone else’s child on our taxes. The real character comes in how we handle that temptation. Do we give in, justifying our actions with selfish reasons? Or do we sacrifice for the greater good of a relationship or waistline? I know one thing; temptation is a bitch, and she definitely does not go down without a fight.
Whenever you are faced with temptation, it’s best to really consider how giving in will affect your life and those in it. Yes, moments of pleasure will undoubtedly be experienced when you give into your desires, but the after-effects can be life altering. Too often, we think about what we want to do while “in the moment.” While living in the present is a wonderful thing, you must take hold of self-control.
The obvious way to avoid temptation is to remove yourself from that which tempts you. Being around someone whom you know you’re not supposed to engage with will only intensify the urge to do so. But if it were that easy, then there would be no such a thing as temptation.
While distance isn’t always possible, it’s important to figure out why the individual/act is tempting in the first place. Is it because you feel like you’re missing out on something? Do you simply just want to be selfish? Or does the need to act out on your desires stem from being rejected often? Identifying certain aspects of your personality allows you to take more control over the decisions that you make, and set clear-cut boundaries that won’t allow you to give into your urges.
As for Rochelle, she’s giving into her temptation at full force, and I’m willing to bet that the consequences will go well beyond those of having a slice of cake instead of carrots. But you don’t have to succumb to temptation.
Shantell E. Jamison is a Chicago-based writer, radio personality, and cultural critic. She’s also JET magazine’s Digital Content Editor. She’s been featured on WBEZ 91.5FM, The Monique Caradine Show, Vocalo 91.1FM, KDKA Newsradio 1020AM, WBGX 1570AM, WYCA 102.3FM, Chicago Now, The Grio, The Black Youth Project, The Gate Newspaper and Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister. Her debut book, Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self, is available now at Amazon.com.
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