What is the greatest temptation? Money, sex, power? They seem to be the obvious ones and I suppose it’s different for every person. Vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience are intended to help monks and nuns resist the temptations of money, sex, and power and to follow the way of Jesus. The greatest and most destructive temptation may not be any of these three.
I wonder if the greatest temptation is self-rejection. I’m not talking about a lack of self-esteem so don’t knee jerk react against this notion. But could it be that beneath all the lures to greed, lust, and success rests a great fear of never being enough or not being lovable?
When I fall into temptation, I tend to blame myself–not just for what I did but for who I am. Yes, we should feel guilt for the sin but as a Christ follower, already forgiven and beloved by God, I should not let my dark side say to me, “I am no good. I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.” Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us God’s beloved. Being loved by God expresses the core truth of my identity and existence.
This is different from humility, which recognizes our great need for God and the reality of our condition. Humility has nothing to do with self-rejection. You can only be humble if you have deep self-respect.