YOU don't have to keep smoking. Anyone trying to break such a joyless habit has the right to be free. Earlier this year Pittsburgh Pirates' Manager Jim Leyland quit smoking. On opening day of the season, Leyland was tempted. ``I wanted to have one,'' The National Sports Daily (April 11) quoted him as saying, ``but I held out.... I'm not going to let one of those things control me like they did before.''
``Control'' -- isn't this the important question here? So often people take up smoking because they want to be accepted by peers, for instance, or because they want to seem more adult or even, simply, because it's forbidden. Years later, many of these people will tell you that they really don't enjoy smoking -- that they feel trapped by the habit.
Isn't it possible that the ``enjoyment'' of smoking may not be pleasing at all? And that where we look for such material pleasure we find only pain and even addiction? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Higher enjoyments alone can satisfy the cravings of immortal man.... The senses confer no real enjoyment.''
Any effort to quit an addiction will be more effective when we understand that man really is immortal. Because God, Spirit, makes man in His own image, man is himself spiritual. Perhaps we hadn't thought before of man in these terms -- as a spiritual being, created and governed by divine Spirit, not by the flesh. Yet this is the central message of the Bible. John says that those who believe in Christ Jesus, ``the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,'' ``were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.''
It may seem ``otherworldly,'' at first, to reject the pleasures promised by such things as alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. But as we begin to recognize that man -- our genuine identity -- is spiritual, it becomes clear that such habits are just the opposite of the ``higher enjoyments'' sought by one born not ``of the will of the flesh...but of God.'' Joys that don't hinge on bodily or sensual experience are natural to this man. Smoking gives no real pleasure. Real joy comes from witnessing and experiencing the wonder of what God gives. This joy lasts, and it does no harm.
Anyone wishing to gain true freedom through prayer can begin today. It may not be easy, but the spiritual lessons learned last forever and carry value that extends beyond the shedding of a single bad habit to the very root of our being.
Stopping smoking -- or any other bad habit -- involves exercising spiritual control. Because this control belongs to God, and is actually exercised by Him, it is not a matter of using our own willpower. Though it does require sincere effort on our part, spiritual control is actually a yielding to the truth that man is made in God's image, and not ``of the will of the flesh.''
The impulse to smoke when we know deep down that we don't want to is clearly an evil influence. It's simply an unchallenged attempt to take control in our lives. Yet we can recognize that we are in God's control alone and squarely face this ungodlike impulse, even if it has been repeated many times. Then it begins to lose its power until it disappears completely.
Freedom is undeniably one of man's most basic rights. And real freedom is spiritual, drawn directly from man's status as God's child. It's our right to have this freedom.