I must give credit where credit is due, as my sister began talking about self-control which got me thinking about this topic in more depth.
Don’t get me wrong, I have often thought about self-control but will be the first to admit that I have erroneously applied self-control in my life. My parents are not known for their self-control. The lack in this area created quite a bit of havoc in my life growing up. I came out of that with the belief that a lack of self-control equaled weakness. Unfortunately, not the right kind of weakness. I didn’t see it as an opportunity for God to be strong in our weakness but instead as a personality and character flaw that one chooses. It was a choice to not have self-control and as such I would never be that weak and I would chose to be strong enough to have self-control.
This is what largely drove me through my college years. This is what drove me to literally have no food or only 1 box of dry Cherrios to eat from for 3 days because I would have the self-control over my hunger to wait until pay day to buy food. I would also have the pride to not ask anyone for help but that is a different post. I would be in severe pain from a headache but I would have the self-control to handle the pain and would refuse to take medicine as that would have demonstrate a weakness in my character as well as a propensity to be like my parents. I could go on.
Here is the catch! We ARE to have self-control. It is a fruit of the Spirit. However, as with all things of the Spirit, the heart and it’s motivations are of paramount importance. I didn’t have the right motivation for my “self-control”. It wasn’t motivated out of giving God glory and learning more about Him. It was motivated out of fear and a reliance on self.
Self-control in America seems to be a thing of the past. Commercials, credit cards, media, fast food, etc. all push us towards the idea that whatever we want, we “deserve” and therefore, we should get it immediately.
Here is what my sister brought up that I thought was a wonderful insight. If we don’t teach people to have self control over the simple things like what they eat, whether they take pain medication immediately for a headache, or how to not spend money they don’t have via credit cards, then how can we expect them to have self control over their sexual life, their thought life, their motivations, and their sin?
This thought reminds me Luke 16:10 where God says that if you aren’t faithful in the little things, you won’t be faithful in the big things. If you don’t have self-control in the little things, how can you have self-control in the big things? It is a learned behavior/skill that has to be practiced and grow with usage.
I have seen how this process of NOT learning self-control can have a detrimental effect on someone and the lives of their family. My father is currently in jail because he didn’t chose to learn self-control. Looking back, I see all the little things he never required himself to have control over i.e. the food he ate, the things he bought, his words, etc. and he was therefore never able to cultivate an attitude of self- control and he and his whole family are paying for that.
My prayer is that I would cultivate an attitude of self-control. Not for the sake of self-righteousness, not to show up my father, but with the desire to honor God and be able to support my husband, and give my children a good example.