Self-control is an enviable skill in our society – one we assume makes it possible to do things like work out enough and avoid junk food.
For me, self-control as a fruit of the spirit looks more like control over my responses and my words, and that seems even harder than getting up early to go for a run (which I should have done today, as well).
In fact, the dictionary defines self control as “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations,” and “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desire,” and “command or mastery over, or possession of, one’s own behavior.”
I learned an important distinction about this concept recently. As a perfectionist and an achiever, I do set goals and work for them purposefully. However, I used to see self-control as a sort of muzzle that kept me from saying or doing things that were “wrong” or that people wouldn’t approve of. The more I read scripture, though, the more I read about self-control as a muscle that we build and flex in situations where we need to practice wisdom and restraint over and over again.
Basically, everything in our social sphere this week is about practicing self-control, and it is difficult! Like gentleness, self-control comes from a place of strength rather than weakness. And it all comes back to what we believe.
If I believe that the world needs me and my opinion, then I make decisions to share based on that.
If I believe that the world needs more listeners, then I make decisions not to share based on that.
If I believe that life is about what I can get for myself now, then I make decisions to seek pleasure and satisfaction based on that.
If I believe that life is about an eternal perspective, then I make decisions to say “no” (even to myself), and practice self-control based on that.
I want to exercise the muscle of self-control in my relationships and conversations, and that requires continued humility to practice restraint, and continued strength to practice empathy.
In addition, as we learn about the other fruits of the spirit, we recognize that they all require self-control! I’m having some friends join me on the blog in the coming weeks to chat about patience, faithfulness, and joy. Tune in next week for the first one! 🙂
“…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)