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The Devil Made Me Do It
by Harvey Gardner

Have you ever done something really dumb? Did you promise yourself or others that youíd never do THAT again? And did you later DO IT AGAIN? Yeah. Me too. What makes us do that?

I donít know how many times Iíve done that. And it isnít always the same thing either. There are many things Iíve said or done that were just plain silly, dumb, unhealthy, unwise, dangerous, sinful, or embarrassing. I guess I could fill a page with adjectives describing dumb deeds I have performed over and over.

Some of us are just habitually self-destructive. No matter how hard we try, we just canít stay on the straight-and-narrow line we want to walk. Just think about our eating habits a minute or two.

Iíll use myself as an example. Iím a junk food junkie. You turn me loose in a convenience store and Iíll spend my whole allowance on Cokes and peanuts. The greasier and saltier the food, the more I like it.

Yet I pride myself on eating healthy. I know what foods contain which nutrients. I know the foods that have too much fat, too much sugar, no nutritional value, and no value at all. I know how to select high-octane complex carbohydrates and I know those rich in vitamins and minerals. I even know when Iím taking on fuel that creates nothing but flatulence. I can talk the talk. I just canít seem to walk the walk. Thatís scary.

But at least I know when Iím eating the wrong stuff. I just donít fully understand why unless itís just because it tastes so gooood! I know itís isnít good for me, but I eat it anyway. Now thatís dumb.

I suffer from a condition called tinnitus, a ringing, rushing, or buzzing sound in the ears not caused by any outside stimulus. Itís annoying, but not fatal. Iíve had it so long, I donít remember if I ever didnít have it. Heck, I even know how to control it. I can turn up the volume and turn down the volume. I even use my tinnitus to regulate my craving for caffeine. When the ringing gets really loud, I stop drinking Cokes and coffee for a few days and the ringing gets very faint. Sometimes it nearly goes away completely.

Now if Iím so dad-blamed smart that I can turn the noise in my ears up and down whenever I want to, why canít I exercise enough discipline to eat properly? Or to control other bad habits that Iíve acquired over the years and that I know are not good for me?

If Iím not careful, I can start feeling really bad about this. So Iím careful. I did some research and found that Iím in good company. Many people throughout history indulged in bad habits. Famous people. Righteous people. Did you know, for example, that the Apostle Paul had the same problem back in the first century? Listen to this.

In Romans 7:14-17, TLB, he says: "I donít understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I canít. I do what I donít want to doówhat I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. But I canít help myself, because Iím no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things."

Comedian Flip Wilson paraphrased Paul this way: "The Devil made me do it."

Now isnít that comforting? We have no higher authority than Flip Wilson assuring us that it isnít our fault when we lose our self-control.

Uh, I have to go now. Iím craving some fried food. I'm heading to the kitchen to whip up some scrambled eggs and a pan of greasy home fries, along with some Hungry Jacks with lots of butter. However, Iím not having coffee. It makes my ears ring.

I guess thereís some truth in what the great philosopher Pogo once said: "We have met the enemy, and he are us."


Retired newspaper editor Harvey Gardner resides in beautiful Tennessee.
Readers may write him at harvey@harveygardner.com.

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