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Self-Control: That Thing in the Bible No One Talks About

Now that it’s fall, that means my bike is going to go away soon and I will have to resort to other forms of exercise, which means the likelihood of me exercising plummets.  Worse, my appetite always spikes when the temperature drops.

Enter the long lost art of self-control.  I’m a hit and miss guy when it comes to self control.  I have learned the art well in a number of areas of my life, but diet and exercise (and a few other persistent pests) still lag. 

It always surprises me when I read through the classic passage in Galatians on the fruits of the Holy Spirit that self-control is listed in the same sentence as love, joy, patience and kindness.  If we’re really relying on God, self-control will factor huge into our walk with Christ.

This article argues that self control is easier when we focus on the overall picture and goal, not the specifics of the moment.  For example, instead of thinking how not to eat more cake, think instead about overall health and the goal of eating better.  Participants who thought big-picture and long-term exercised more self control.  It reminds me of God’s promise to always help us when faced with a self control issue if we would turn to Him (big picture v. small picture).

It also reminded me of one of the parenting principles we teach in Orange: imagine the end.  Parents often get stuck in parenting because we get lost in the details of the moment – life is so busy we let our tempers fray and petty things ruin the day, or we’re lose patience because of our daughter’s attitude.  When that happens, we lose focus on the overall goal of raising kids who are fully alive in Christ. Self-control in those moments comes more easily If we constantly keep the end in mind.   When we keep the end in mind, we’ll focus our parenting on what matters most.

How’s your battle with self-control?  Any of these learnings helpful?  What do you find helpful?  Did the article (or scripture) resonate for you?

2 Comments

  1. Stephen Volkmann on October 24, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I'll add to those of us who struggle with self control. There are pre programmed habits within us that take over when we are at our weakest. That's when our love and faith in Christ has to automatically take over. As long as we let Him.

    I have been slowly learning that the big picture is defined by Him. That helps keep my perspective and I feel like I have self control.

    But, it doesn't always work. The negative thinking sneaks in and says, "ah! what's the use. You've messed up your diet already. This one time won't hurt you!"

    I'm glad you mentioned the perspective of the big picture. When challenges close in on us, we lose ourselves in the details and only see the trees. Every tree looks the same and the volume can be overwhelming thereby making us feel small and weak. The big picture must be view at all times.

    Thanks for making your point, Carey and Tim.

  2. Tim Roberts on October 22, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Carey: Great post. It did get me thinking alot. I know that I battle with selfcontrol in alot of areas. And well I usually lose. The point of keeping the whole picture in focus, looking at the long term hit home and is something I need to start thinking more about and using as my focus when this issue arises

    Hope you have a great one!

    ~Tim

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