One of the ways to successfully fend off this despair is by celebrating our victories. Like the time that you really wanted to join in the conversation about Chaya, but you didn’t. And the time that you bit your tongue instead of yelling at your kids. These victories should not be overlooked and forgotten.
The story is told of one of our greatest sages from the 16th century, Rabbi Mordechai Yoffe, known as the Levush (clothing). Like Yosef Hatzaddik, he was gifted with beautiful features, and he too struck the fancy of a powerful female gentile, and came very close to sinning. Almost succumbing to her approaches, he was in the inner chambers of her room. The only way for him to make his escape was to go through the sewage pipes. He escaped, but ruined his very expensive clothing in the process. To commemorate his triumph over his yetzer hara he called all of his works “Levush” or clothing, after the clothing that he ruined in order to escape sin. By calling his seforim “Levush” he would forever remember that he was able to defeat the yetzer hara, and strengthen himself to defeat him further.
We too need to remember our own victories over the yetzer hara.(This can be done by writing them down in a journal, or placing a code word on your fridge… or encapsulating them through other means.)
Similarly, Rav Hunter writes on the Pasuk “seven times a tzaddik stumbles,” (Mishlei 24:16) that the simple-minded understand this to mean that a tzaddik always gets back up, no matter how many times he falls. But, in truth this is much deeper. The tzaddik understands that the seven falls he had were what built him. That these seven falls are what gave him the resolve to never fall again. With this understanding one learns not only to not give up when one sins, but to grow from the sin itself.
The sin itself is the tool which our great sages used to make themselves into giants of middos. So, even when one does sin, there is no true reason to despair. The sin in which we stumbled can become the building block that we use to do good in the future. May we not stumble, but if we do, may we grow from the experience and become better people in the process.