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I love to drive. I am a driving fanatic, since I’m in my car every day for one or more trips on local roads or highways. Driving, of course, means sharing the road with other drivers, and that means sometimes having close calls. I’ve found that they’re mostly unnecessary, if the other driver either wasn’t in such a hurry, or didn’t feel compelled to “jump the gun” by pulling out directly in front of my speeding automobile.
You’d think I’d be used to it after 50 years on the roads, but at some past moments my ire took control and I was tempted to do something stupid, like follow the person too closely, or curse them out, or heaven forbid, accost them for their apparent stupidity and lack of caution.
It’s taken me years to develop the patience and reserve to do none of those things—because I make mistakes too.
So I’ve had to ask myself: what tempts us to take risks that jeopardize our own or other’s lives, at least potentially, in a two-ton moving hunk of steel and plastic?
For all people, the temptation to slide into uncontrolled, impulsive and selfish ways is a constant battle with the self. We all face it.
The temptation to not do a thing, by procrastinating; or to do something perhaps out of the ordinary, against the grain or illegal, like surpassing highway speed limits by large margins; is part of human nature. Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” Mae West said “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”
Everyone is tempted by one thing or another. We’re constantly tempted, especially in today’s world where the right amount of money will procure anything on earth, to give in to those inner emotions, whether spontaneous or well thought out, whether good or evil, in between or innocuous.
But does giving in to temptation always cause harm? Hmmm, that’s like asking Jean Valjean if stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s seven starving children was worth nineteen years in prison. The motivation and intention of an act may be innocent or even altruistic, but society at the time may think otherwise. Often, it’s what others would think that prevents us from acting illegally, or at least without caution.
Sometimes temptations present themselves to us, and other times we generate a need within ourselves. Regardless, when we act, whether for good or ill, we all have a sense from childhood on that every action not only has a reaction, but also has a reward or a punishment:
Justice, which consisteth in rendering each his due, dependeth upon and is conditioned by two words: reward and punishment. From the standpoint of justice, every soul should receive the reward of his actions, inasmuch as the peace and prosperity of the world depend thereon, even as He saith, exalted be His glory: “The structure of world stability and order hath been reared upon, and will continue to be sustained by, the twin pillars of reward and punishment.” In brief, every circumstance requireth a different utterance and every occasion calleth for a different course of action. Blessed are they that have arisen to serve God, who speak forth wholly for His sake, and who return unto Him. – Baha’u’llah, The Tabernacle of Unity, p. 40.
Every action, even non-action in the face of a call to action, has a consequence. The temptation to do a thing has always been presented as negative, as if temptation itself is evil. But temptation can also serve the urge to do good, such as stopping on a busy highway to help a stranded motorist.
Those who want to serve their fellow man and woman will pause in their rush to an appointment to make that stop, and see it through. That stranded motorist will be grateful for any help offered, in an age when hundreds of drivers will speed past with no thought of stopping.
So when the temptation to do a good thing enters your mind or heart, please feel free to give in. As the Baha’i teachings promise, you will be blessed.