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Maintaining Perspective

Life is not always easy. There will always be struggles and challenges for us to face and deal with. But we should never lose track of the difference between a short-term issue and the long-term effects.

In the short-term it can be easy to want to do what is easiest, quickest, or least painful. But will you feel the same way down the road? The temptations of today can lead to the regrets of tomorrow, and those regrets tend to last a whole lot longer than the temptations. Likewise, the challenges we face today may feel like a burden, but the benefits can last a lifetime.

Take for example a college student who knows that she needs to study for a test in the morning, but would really rather go see a movie with her friends. In the moment that movie can be very tempting, while studying may seem like the last thing in the world you'd want to do.

There is only so much time left in the day and how that student chooses to spend her time really does matter. She could go to the movie and have a good time with her friends, maybe even make a few memories. But while they can always go to the movies another night, the test will still be tomorrow.

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Picture of a college student studying
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If she decides instead to spend the night hitting the books she can earn a  good grade on the exam, improve her chances of doing well in the course, and take another step towards earning her degree. Studying for exams may seem unappealing in the moment, but once you earn a degree you have it for life. Nobody can take it away from you and you can reap the benefits for as long as you live.

A chocolate cake may seem especially tempting as well, but the weight gain that comes with it will take a lot longer to take off than it did to put on. A quick profit may seem harmless in the moment, but once your integrity and reputation are damaged they can take  years to repair, if they are ever repaired. Earning trust takes time  and effort; a lot more time and effort than it takes to lose trust. So maybe that quick profit isn't so harmless after all. 

It's in these moments that we have to ask ourselves if the temptation is worth the  consequences. Having a one-night stand might seem like fun today, but a child is a lifelong  commitment. Are you ready for that and would you want that other person to be your child's mother or father?

It can be really tough to resist when temptations come calling, but we have to remind ourselves of the long-term effects. Often we're better off pushing past temptation to provide ourselves with a better tomorrow. Of course this is usually easier said than done. Whether it's studying for an exam, a craving for sweets, a questionably obtained profit, or a night of pleasure, temptations are indeed challenging.

But it can help to keep some perspective. Remind yourself for instance that temptations are passing. The urge may be a powerful one in the moment, but it will weaken with time. The benefits or consequences however will last much longer.

Study for one night and earn a good grade that can never be taken away. Make a shady deal and you'll come away with a profit that gets spent quickly, but damages your reputation for years to come. Have sex with someone you don't know well and you might end up with a disease that can't be cured. Is it worth it?

Sometimes it can help to think of these challenges and temptations as tests. Think of it as a test of how badly you really want something. For instance, how badly do you want to get in shape? Are you willing to push yourself to exercise when you don't feel like it? Are you willing to pass on the ice-cream or brownies? Are you willing to wait for the right man or woman to come along?

If you pass the test and get your reward, knowing how hard you worked for it becomes another reward. Not only do you attain the goal you set for  yourself, but you also have the feeling of accomplishment knowing that your efforts paid off.

Let's take one last example. A well-meaning father is driving with his two young children in the back seat. They're running late and he's in a rush. He makes sure that they're both buckled in, jumps in his own seat, and backs up. In his haste he hits a parked vehicle.

He's tempted to drive off. It's the easy thing to do. He gets out of the car and quickly assesses the situation. There's no significant damage to the other vehicle; just a scrape and some paint swapping. He's already in a rush and tells himself if the other driver was

there he would say something. But he's in such a hurry that he convinces himself that it's okay just this one time to let it go.

He  jumps back in his car and in the rearview mirror he sees his children in the back seat watching him. After pausing for a moment, he turns off the car and starts to write a note to the other driver. He explains to his children what he's doing, when the other driver returns to his vehicle.

The father isn't finished with his note, but sees the other man clearly upset. He puts the note down and approaches the other man. The father is embarrassed and knows that he's likely to get yelled at. But he sucks it up and apologizes. The other driver curses and tells him what a lousy driver he is, but the father remains calm. He gives the other man his contact information and promises to pay the repair bill if the other driver will send him a copy of the  invoice.

The father had to swallow his pride. He had to accept responsibility. He had to listen to  someone else ream him out. He had to be even later than he already was. But it was worth it because of the example he set for his children.

We've all had situations where we're running short on time and rushing to get someplace. We've all made mistakes that we wish we could hide from. But while admitting your mistake and taking responsibility for it may be a  tough pill to swallow, the example that it sets for those watching can literally make an impact that spans the generations.

So take a moment to consider your actions. Picture yourself and those around you in the future looking back on this moment. How would you feel  then (in the future) if you gave into temptation today? How would you feel if instead you resisted? Temptation is a powerful opponent, but a bit of perspective can be an equally powerful ally.

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