The Battle of the Generation - Day 30
Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation"
Chapter 13 - The Plan
Desire can take over a person’s mind. When it hits, the person’s interests instantly change, and suddenly all that matters is getting what he wants. A person under the influence of desire can act in a completely irrational manner while thinking he is acting rationally.
Our Sages teach us (Chagiga 11b) that licentious desires can affect us even when we are not in the middle of a challenge. Of course, our desires grow even stronger if something triggers them awake, and they are at their strongest when what we desire is in front of us. This makes it difficult to work on self-control at any time, and incredibly tough to prevail when a desire hits and we suddenly yearn to give in.
To overcome this, we need a thorough game plan that we can start to implement when we’re not under the influence of desire. This strategy must deal with the many aspects of the battle against desire and must cover as many of the yetzer hara’s tricks as possible. It must build us up until we are strong enough to overcome intense challenges, and it must include techniques that help us win our battles.
To succeed in the battle against desire, we must be constantly on guard for the yetzer hara’s traps. This will prevent him from surprising and clobbering us with desire before we can react. If we wait until after the battle has begun to start working on ourselves, our abilities will be limited. The odds are stacked against a person who has been caught off guard. Victory in such situations requires superhuman strength.
Thus, the first step of a successful battle plan is figuring out our upcoming tests and preparing for them. We must work on ourselves before we are challenged to stop our rational minds from falling asleep when our desires start up. Part 5 of this book will deal with that first step in the plan: awareness. By training ourselves to be alert, we will maintain our focus and be ready for any stirrings of desire. We will not lose ourselves, so we will stay awake and keep our ability to make the right choice. We will also be able to use techniques during the challenge that will help us win.
Another vital part of the battle plan is developing the desire and excitement to defeat the yetzer hara. We can do this by contemplating how much we gain when we exercise self-control. We will discuss this in depth in Part 6: Wanting to Win. This is the most important weapon for battling the yetzer hara in any area, not just desire.
The yetzer hara likes to attack us in “the gray area.” He tries to get us to commit actions that might make us uneasy but don’t seem overtly wrong. Even if part of us senses that these questionable actions are wrong, we lack the resolve to control ourselves because we are not thoroughly convinced. This makes it easier for the yetzer hara to get us to give in. Thus, another vital ingredient of our plan is the development of willpower strong enough to overcome the yetzer hara’s tricks. We must clarify that what he is telling us to do really is wrong, and we have to commit not to give in no matter what. Part 7 will be all about willpower.
Finally, if we can weaken the pull of our desires, that will help us dramatically. The weaker the pull, the less the yetzer hara can blind, trick, and overpower us. Many situations that would normally spark a challenge will no longer bother us if we can weaken the intensity of our desires.
Another benefit of weakening our desires is that it becomes easier to win battles that go on for long. Such battles are the most difficult challenges we face. Once our desires take hold, they grow stronger every minute while our self-control weakens. The longer the battle rages, the harder it is to hang on. Eventually, our inner strength cracks and the yetzer hara overpowers us. But if we learn how to stop our desires from getting out of hand in the first place, and how to calm them down if they do start up, we won’t be overpowered by desire.
For these reasons, learning how to calm our desires is important. This will be the focus of Part 8. Our ultimate objective is to quiet our desires enough that rarely will we lose control over our emotions. This will make our battles much easier.
The yetzer hara has employed all his tricks against us in the battle of desire. We need a thorough, well-rounded strategy to defeat him no matter what he tries. With our balanced plan, we can achieve unfathomable levels of self-control and deal him a crushing blow in the battle of the generation.
- We can be affected by desire in three ways: in general, through triggers, and directly.
- We must work when clear from desire to implement a thorough, diverse plan for victory.
- Our plan must include the following elements: awareness, the desire to win, willpower, and calmness. These elements will be explored in upcoming chapters.