Self-control happened to me all backwards by the world’s standard. It didn’t come out of a season of strength of will or power of mind. I didn’t wake up one day and think, gosh, it’s time to master this in order to better accomplish my goals.
No, self-control was forced on me because of circumstances.
I was living as a single parent for a temporary time, and if I hadn’t been rescued by self-control I would have made a complete mess of myself and my kids. I was crushed and alone. My situation made me understandably angry. I didn’t want to rise to the daily challenges of being the only parent in the home. I wanted “me time” like I had been able to have before. I wanted security in one form or another – money or man. That was how my heart defined security.
I didn’t know from experience that self-control could provide me with a greater sense of security and with a greater sense of satisfaction with my life than I had ever known before.
Taking control of my life made me fruitful – almost immediately. In conversation, self-control helped me stay gentle. In response to a need, it helped me stay calm. Slowly, by reigning my desires, thoughts, feelings, and impulses in I started to see more clearly who I really was, and in that seeing I was able to know more deeply my identity.
A true understanding of my identity has changed everything about me.
If I don’t know who I am, then it doesn’t matter what I do in a single day – I won’t have any feelings of worth. But when I know who I am – I can lay my head to rest each night satisfied.
Knowing my own identity does not change my circumstances. Self-control doesn’t rely on a scale to prove identity and worth.
Self-control is necessary while alone and with others. It’s impossible to live with self-control without it having an effect on others. They know if you have it, and if you don’t. The tests of life make it clear to everyone around you. Passing the tests does not include projecting self-control onto them.
Self-control doesn’t attempt to change others.
If I attempt to take control of your life that makes me a control freak.
As a mother, I face the challenge of choosing to take control of myself and guiding (not controlling) my kids. And because this challenge is so difficult and daily, some moms give up. They either don’t control themselves because they don’t know how OR they have a wrong view of what true self-control is OR they continue asserting their control onto their kids (and husband) to greater and greater degrees all while not learning how to control the one person that they can control. To the frustration of all in the home.
I’m here to say, I’ve been there – I’ve done that. It isn’t path to fruitfulness.
Self-control leads to freedom. It leads to satisfaction. It’s by product is contentment. My self-control ministers to those around me in a quiet, unseen way that blesses them without their even knowing it. Self-control made me safe. Having it and growing it in my life, made my kids safe too.
So how do you get self-control?
The irony is that you can’t do it by yourself. Sure, you can make goals, commit to try harder in areas of weakness, and you can even try to model your behavior after someone who has good control of themselves. But self-control is not born out of grit and determination. It is by the Spirit and His leading to say no.
The best no. The no to sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness.
No one else around you knows your thoughts, desires, and feelings. We keep our selfishness hidden well. Learning to say no to self isn’t something that can be modeled after someone else’s list of no’s.
Also, someone else cannot say no for you. And isn’t that a relief? I don’t know about you, but when anyone says no for me there used to be a great sense of rebellion that would rise for being controlled. (Not everyone who makes choices for others is a control freak, but it can feel that way every time for the one being controlled.)
Self-control is a taming of inner rebellion. True, intimate self-knowledge knows what thoughts and actions are born from a heart of rebellion or submission.
Rebellion or submission. Fists or open hands. Death or life to the spirit. That’s what it boils down to. Rebellion lies and says it can lead to a freedom God doesn’t want you to have (sounds like a garden lie again) and submission tells the truth and says that God is sovereign and He holds the keys to true freedom.
So I was faced with trials beyond what I could bare. My hands were forced open, and my heart was exposed. I was confronted face-to-face with a choice of who I could become.
I was given the keys to freedom. I have tasted the fruit that has miraculously grown.
There are 10 keys to self-control. I don’t think of 10 separate doors all leading to disconnected parts of myself, but rather one long hallway where to go further and deeper I must open the next door.
What’s the goal? Where is it that this hallway of self-control leads? It’s personal discipline, maturity, and greater growth. It’s coming to the place where you know for certain who you are, what you are called to do and the confidence to do it.
We all have a daily choice: Freedom and fruitfulness or frustrated freak. Who will you control today?
For more encouragement from The Home Learner, click here.