The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 19: On the Way to Resist the Sins of the Flesh
The advice given here is different than for other temptations. We are not to confront these temptations of the Flesh head-on, but our combat is by fleeing their occasion and going to Our Saviour. Our technique in the past has been to grow in virtue, fighting the battle. These temptations catch us differently, and so a different method is needed.
Our teacher gives three time periods: before temptation; during temptation; after temptation.
Before temptation we have 5 points: avoid the occasion, avoid idle behavior, obey your superiors, avoid judgment of others, never imagine you are immune to a fall.
During temptation we need to establish if the cause is external or internal, that is, does it come from the senses (external), or does it proceed from my wounded nature or from the suggestion of the devil (internal). If external, than we should be able to remove ourselves from the temptation or correct our behavior. If internal, we are in need of penance and prayer. Bodily penance is suggested, which flows from St. Paul’s advice of disciplining our bodies, so that they become subject to us. Prayer is recommended, not to pray against the things of temptation, but rather, turn to Jesus, stay with Jesus, allowing the meditation to send the temptations away.
After temptation: Never imagine that you will not be tempted again. Stay vigilant.
An additional point to be made here: Many people are confused as to the difference between temptation and sin. If we think that temptation is all those things that stay inside me but never are manifested outside of me, we are deceived. If we think that any thought that comes into my mind is a sin, we are deceived. The truth is this: a temptation is any suggestion that is presented to my intellect or will, either from within or from without. If I, having realized that this is being presented to me, send this away, the temptation never moved beyond temptation, and I have not sinned. On the other hand, as soon as I engage any temptation, either by fantasy in the mind, willing in the heart, or action outside my mind or will, the temptation has moved me to sin.
In short: Temptations are not sins. Engaging them, in the mind, heart, or in action outside the mind or heart, is sin.
An accurate understanding of this will assist in not thinking yourself defeated when you have not been defeated; it will also help you not think yourself safe when in fact you have passed into sinful ways.
The Spiritual Combat text: here.
Chapter 20: How to Combat Sloth