Response to Temptation

This is probably the primary practice in the Course. It is found in about twenty places throughout the Text, anywhere it says, “whenever you feel disturbed, say this…” followed by indented, italicized lines. It begins early in the Workbook (Lesson 4) and continues through to the end. Responses to temptation are also called “specific applications” and the “as needed” applications.


Be constantly vigilant for any kind of disturbance of your peace. When you notice one, be sure to respond immediately by repeating today’s idea with certainty and applying it specifically to your upset.

Be constantly vigilant…

My dictionary defines being vigilant as “keenly watchful to detect danger; ever awake and alert; sleeplessly watchful.” This is how we must be about what we let into our minds. The Workbook tells us that we must “be alert” to any attack thoughts we allow into our minds (71) and that our peace can only be preserved by “careful watching” (136)

for any kind of disturbance of your peace of mind.

The emphasis here is on any kind of upset, any perception that you are required to feel pain (193). The Workbook asks us to apply the lessons to a much broader range of upsets than we would ever expect, and the same is true of the Text. Here is a list:

Whenever you…

  • see a situation or event as causing you pain (5)
  • have a thought that distresses you or makes you uneasy (10, 16)
  • notice your mood is not wholly joyous (T4.IV,5.VII)
  • have generalized feelings of depression, anxiety or worry (34)
  • engage in dismal thinking and lamenting (131)
  • experience any form of fear, apprehension, doubt, panic, or terror (41, 99, 193)
  • doubt your mind’s ability to free you and the world (132)
  • question your value (T-9.VII)
  • are tempted to feel guilty (T-4.IV), or agree with your brother that you are guilty (T-14.III)
  • feel defensive (153), see your body or ego as under attack (T-4.I)
  • see injustice anywhere (T-26.X)
  • believe you are subject to earthly laws (like those of medicine, relationships, religion) (76)
  • experience concern for your body (163)
  • have a thought which implies you are something other than spirit (97)
  • see something in the world you value (128, 183)
  • desire some possession (T-13.VII)
  • are feeling burdened (133), feeling a sense of care (193)
  • think a difficult decision is facing you (133)
  • are tempted to engage in planning (135, 136)
  • think a problem is facing you (79, 38, 80) or even facing someone else (38)
  • feel anything but love for another: when someone seems to cause an adverse reaction in you (37), when you have attack thoughts or judgments about someone (136), when you notice you have a grievance toward someone (68, 69, 73, 77), when you are angry because you see sin in another (181), when you want to attack (194) or to demand that another sacrifice for your sake (T-15.XI)

be sure to respond immediately…

Five times the Workbook says “be sure” to do this, In other words, don’t miss this chance. It also emphasizes that we should respond immediately (32, 33, 37, 73), instantly (33, 136, 161), quickly (68, 77, 79, 80, 133), rather than sitting there and stewing on our upset.

by repeating today’s idea with certainty…

Do not use the idea to bludgeon your feelings, to force them out of existence. Rather, just repeat the idea “with gentle firmness and quiet certainty” (W-pI.73.10:1; 128 and 273 also mention repeating the idea with certainty). You are simply turning on a light, and the light will then naturally shine away your darkness.

and applying it specifically to your upset.

This is very important, for the mind relates to specifics, not generalities. Most instructions in response to temptation will give you a specific form for applying the idea to upsets. It usually addresses either the “upsetting” person (by saying “you”) or the “upsetting” situation or feeling (by saying “this”), and often adds additional thoughts. Here is a good example: “The light has come. I have forgiven you” (75). Where a specific form is not provided, the Workbook would like you to come up with our own.


  • “These are words which give you power over all events that seem to have been given power over you” (193).
  • protects your mind throughout the day (34, 128, 181)
  • frees your mind from the chains you would lay upon it (128, 130)
  • can release all minds from bondage (193)
  • can make the mundane, irritating business of the day holy (rIII)
  • removes fear and doubt from your mind (93, 99) enables you to laugh at your fears (41)
  • helps you “let your grievances go, instead of cherishing them and hiding them in darkness” (73)
  • “Do not repeat the thought and lay it down. Its usefulness is limitless to you.” (rIII; italics mine)

Consider Each Response to Temptation…

  • a declaration that you will not yield to the temptation and put yourself in bondage (31)
  • a statement of freedom from all danger and tyranny (76)
  • the answer to whatever confronts you today (50)
  • the key that opens Heaven’s gate, and brings the Love of God the Father down to earth at last (193)


  • Take a minute or so, close your eyes, sit quietly, and repeat idea several times (33).
  • Take several minutes and repeat the idea until you feel relief (34).
  • Add “related thoughts”—your own thoughts that are related to the idea and that apply to this situation.
  • You might add “I can replace my feelings… [or my thoughts…] with peace” (34).
  • Remind yourself that your feelings “can not withstand the truth these mighty words contain” (99).
  • For big upsets, use the Review II responses to temptation (the italicized lines after each lesson).


The entire Course is an attempt to shine the light of truth directly onto the hazy heart of illusions. Here, in response to temptation, is where that happens. The subterranean heart of the ego is manifest in each angry, fearful, resentful, anxious or worried thought that crosses our minds and snares our allegiance. Response to temptation is where our practice not only walks onto the playing field, but goes head-to-head with the other team; where our practice not only enters the ego’s house, but tosses out the current tenant.

Try to Make it a Habit

Set the goal of making response to temptation a habit. Decide that you want it to be one of your primary habits of thought, one of the main ways in which your mind works. This is a long-range goal, but will save you countless years on your journey home. Several times the Course refers to the crucial importance of making response to temptation a mental habit. I have italicized the word “habit” in the following quotes:

It must become a habit of response so typical of everything you do that it becomes your first response to all temptation, and to every situation that occurs. (T-31.III.1:3)

Learn, then, the happy habit of response to all temptation…. (T-31.VIII.5:1)

You have not yet formed the habit of using the idea as an automatic response to temptation. (W-pI.95.5:3)

Gather a Problem-Solving Repertoire

One passage speaks a world about how this habit will look: “As [the idea, “I place the future in the Hands of God”] becomes a thought that rules your mind, a habit in your problem-solving repertoire, a way of quick reaction to temptation…” (W-pI.194.6:2). This clearly refers to having your own collection of ideas that you have found particularly effective, and that you use to heal your upsets. They become your personal doctor bag, filled with remedies which you quickly apply to any of your mental cuts and bruises.

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]