Its kind of rare that I blog about things of a spiritual nature, but yesterday I was doing some scripture study and came across a phrase which occurs several times in the scriptures, that perhaps I haven't thought much about. The phrase is "deny yourself", and occasionally its given along with some further specification of what is meant, and generally it refers to denying ourselves of ungodliness and more specifically it tends to be mentioned along with lust, and often occurs in verses that make mention of "taking up your cross".
And as I was pondering this idea and what exactly its significance was, I had a couple thoughts. The first one was that just because a desire comes, apparently, from within us, that doesn't make it good. If we have to "deny ourselves" that seems to indicate that not everything we think we want is good for us. And yes, this makes sense, especially when you look at other people, kids especially, and see that not everything someone wants is for their good. But to make take one step further, sometimes when I sin, I tend to think, "Man, I wish I wasn't the kind of person who wants to do the wrong thing sometimes." And then I kind of give up control over my actions. As in, well if I were a better person I wouldn't want to do that, but thats not who I am right now, so I guess I'm stuck with these sins until my nature is changed.
This kind of dovetails into another thought that I had, one which I've had before, which is that temptation is not the same thing as sin. Sometimes I feel guilty for being tempted and think that if I were a better person I wouldn't be tempted by this or that. When really, temptation is our common lot in this life. Its not our fault that we face temptation, and if it wasn't tempting, would it really be called temptation? I mean, I suspect that if we resist certain temptations for a sufficient amount of time, we will perhaps not be tempted in that way. Or perhaps through covenants or the strength of personal experience and/or testimony we may not be tempted by certain things. But no matter our experience or our strength, we must be tempted to test whether we will do all that the Lord has commanded us.
So, because temptation is a given, we shouldn't allow temptation to make us feel guilty or feel bad about ourselves. Often I find that just being tempted makes me feel like I'm on an inevitable path to sin, when really I should just be aware that I'm being tempted and that I now have a choice, to either give in to that temptation, or to instead "deny myself". And while self-denial, at times, feels like pretending to be someone we aren't, in reality, who we are is, to steal a line from "Hitch", a very fluid concept right now. So in a way, to become the better person who doesn't give in to temptation, and who doesn't have worldly desires, we have to deny our current self. Which, I'll admit can be scary, but definitely is an inspiring idea.