Self-control, like patience, is a fruit of the Spirit that makes us cringe. It seems unattainable, elusive, impossible, and we can beat ourselves up over our lack of it in many areas. Now I don’t have a magic formula that I found in some obscure verse in the Bible. But here is some practical, and I hope biblical, advice.
God is perfect, but He is not a perfectionist. He gives us commands, and He promises to enable us to obey Him by means of the grace He abundantly provides. But we are pretty thick and our flesh is obstinate and won’t go along quietly at all. So we flub up consistently, which should be a potent reminder that Christianity is the religion for us: we need a Savior.
Sometimes we don’t have self-control because we are not defining it biblically, but in a worldly way. We think that if we had self-control, we would all wear a size 6 and be in great shape because we were getting in an hour of exercise everyday after having our two-hour quiet time and a bowl of granola. And since very few of us attain to such things, we all think we are pretty pathetic, and we look with envy at the woman who is wearing the size 6, and think to ourselves, “If I only had self-control, I could look like that. But I don’t, so I am a big loser.” And then we go on to confess our lack of self-control, when what we should have been confessing was the envy, the discontent, the self-absorption, and the melodrama.
Self-control begins in the heart, and it works its way out in our thoughts, words, and actions. James says that if a man can control his tongue, he is perfect. The tongue is a pretty unruly animal and requires a strong hand. This is a great place for all women to begin to acquire self-control. We can begin by listening to ourselves. Do we need to tighten up? How do we talk to our husbands? Children? To we confide too much in friends, and do we excuse one another for our indiscretion? If so, then we should pray for God to set a watch at the door of our lips and make restitution when we sin with our tongue. We easily excuse ourselves when we sin with our tongue, attributing to ourselves the best of motives. But we beat ourselves up for imaginary sins, like having chips with lunch. And you can confess false guilt all day long, and it does not go away.
If we have bad thought habits, self-control names the sin correctly (lust, greed, ingratitude, etc.), confesses it, and then asks God for grace to overcome the ungodly habits of mind. Sometimes this means IGNORING the ugly thoughts. Spurgeon said that you can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair. So shoo them off, don’t analyze them to death. But analyzing them seems like the spiritual thing to do; it’s what our flesh wants to do. But self-control won’t have a bit of it, but presses on to better things.
If you have a besetting sin, this is an area where the city wall is broken down, and the enemy has easy access. It may take a long time to overcome this, but as my husband has wisely reminded me, “If you weren’t resisting this sin, you would be busy resisting another one.” In other words, we are all being sanctified, and that will take a long time. Don’t waste time being discouraged about what kind of sin you are fighting. We don’t get to choose our enemies. And temptation is not the same thing as sin. You may have a day of resisting temptation successfully, but you feel worn out and defeated at the end of the day, and somehow think you have lost when this was a great day of victory.
Emotions are nice but unreliable. Women in particular need to wield control over their own feelings rather than letting the feelings control them. They can really work us over good if we let them. Self-control has the wisdom to see what is going on. I think it is as equally unwise to get really excited and buoyant as it is to get down in the dumps. Mood swings are not fun for anyone in the room. Self-control is like a thermostat, setting the temperature, and keeping things at an even keel. Emotions are like the thermometer, affected by the surrounding climate or conditions, and given to great fluctuation.
In all these things, we need God’s Spirit to fill us, teach us, and open our eyes to what it is we are about. We are foolish creatures, in great need of wisdom. And God has promised to give it to us when we ask.
11 thoughts on “A Little More on Self-control”
Good post Mrs. Wilson. Self-control could be considered a subset of self-discipline. Learning to discipline your body and spirit will help enable you to control your thoughts and actions.
Keep up the great posts!
Nancy… this is a difficult thing for a woman who tends to be on the “hyper” side. Whenever I have lamented about my “hyperness” I have had many people tell me to be glad of the way God made me. Now of course there is some truth to that, however, we can also sin in the way God has made us.
The same “hyperness” that allows me to wake up early, get things done for my family, be a mover and a shaker, also tends to send me sky high and then crash big time. Whether you want to call it being energetic, hyper, spastic, etc. etc. there are downsides to this situation. The biggest being a lack of self-control. I have struggled with this my entire life (37 years). It does not help to be raised by a mother with zero self-control either.
Anyway, all this to say that this is a real problem for some women out there. Especially in this day and age when we are told to be “real” to let our feelings show and other such nonsense. This is the opposite of temperance. Now, on the other hand I have known some very reserved people. I can’t tell if anything moves them at all. There is such a lack of emotion there that I feel like I’m just annoying them. I can’t tell if I just expect people to be more emotional and I’m confounded by their temperance or if they are on the opposite extreme-coldness.
I also wanted to say that whenever I have tried really hard to be self-controlled and temperate people ask me if there is something wrong, or if I’m down or other such thing. There is almost an expectancy that if I’m not bouncing off the walls that must mean I’m depressed, which makes me so mad because I’m trying so hard to be even-keeled. I keep hoping the meek and quiet spirit will help with the self-control. Now if only I can make some progress there.
Thank you for saying all these things… and by all means if you think of other practical ways to help with this situation do write more.
Thank you for your words of Biblical wisdom. I do find myself confessing sins that I either made up or come from a worldly mindset instead of the actual sins that are far worse and need to be confronted. And I always need reminding on how important guarding of my lips is and the impact on others around me. Thank you for following God’s command to teach younger women in the church, as I know many of us are convicted and yet comforted by your writings.
Luma: not to hikack Mrs. Wilson’s thread, I’ve found for myself that sometimes making sure I have the right nutrition (B vits, sunshine, nerve food, whatever) helps even out the highs and the lows. Not a replacement for self-control, but it can make things a lot easier. (needless to say I’ve sort of been there).
Thanks Mrs. Wilson. I needed to hear this!
I haven’t finished mulling enough to write a substantive reply, but I wanted to say thanks so much for writing the post!
This is so very, very refreshing to my soul. Could you please come live with me??? 🙂 (j/k)
Thank you for taking time to write. I think each time I read your blogs I need to stop myself from lamenting the fact that I didn’t learn these things when I was younger, and get to learning and practicing them this very day!
Thank you for this! It clarified some things for me & made me realize that I analyze things far too often! 🙂 Thank you for the encouragement & reminders.
Unfortunately, I can totally relate to Ms. Luma a few posts above. I too struggle so much with flying high, being energetic and then crashing. I too have my husband often question me with the “What’s wrong hunny? Are you mad or something?” When I’m trying desperately to be quiet, calm, and practice having a meek spirit. I really needed to hear this post, and am printing it off and keeping it in my purse with me. Thank you Nancy!
What a great thing to read! It’s so nice to be encouraged by such clear headed wisdom!
LUMA: I am the SAME as you! I’ve always been a happy go lucky girl and I have a ton of energy! It is the personality I was born with! Many people have told me they love that about me and to not lose my “spunk” I think the answer for me is not to change my personality, but be aware of my moods and try not to go overboard. Not to let our excitement and emotions run wild. I think God wants me this way, but he also wants me to balance it with self control and sensible ness. Anyway, I loved this article! But we are all different and uniquely made! 🙂
So I don’t know what this means, but I’m a very deep-feeling person, and I sometimes feel like losing my deep emotional highs and lows would mean losing part of who I am and/or losing touch with life. I feel like feeling things strongly or deeply (good and bad) is a bit like seeing the world in its fullest, most brilliant color. (Incidentally, I also feel very alive in sunshiny times around vibrant color, and I can get very depressed when it’s gray for extended periods of time.)
But the blazing anger I feel at times really hurts people, like my husband, and keeps me from wanting to make friends, because I don’t want to end up hurting them. I’m also worried it would hurt any kids I might have, too.
So I know anger is a problem, but what about everything else? I guess I mostly don’t understand why being intensely happy would be a bad thing. Actually, I feel like being not intensely happy about things would resemble not being thankful for blessings the Lord gives me. And I feel like not grieving deeply over something that grieves me deeply would mean I would never fully moved on.