The Unsung Virtue: Self Control

Sometimes I think that all of the things God wants for us should come more naturally than they do.  But they don’t.

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?


  1. rob duncan on March 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    What I find helpful about self-control is to remember that it is not my doing. I am not relying on my strength, but on God’s Strength. This is a basic principle of the ten step program that many of us are familiar with, or at least have heard of. Looking at the “big picture” is very valuable in this too.
    Since I have been coming to Connexus, I have been working on two “special” personal issues of self-control, and so far, God has seen fit to see me through. It hasn’t been easy, but of course, what of value is?
    Some of my peers find it helpful to remember how long it has been since they have changed a bad habit into a good one, where remembering God’s Faithfulness in the past leads them to continue expecting His Faithfulness in the future. This seems to work for them and I am happy for them. But I tend to concentrate “in the moment”, and not try to remember the successes of the past, lest I pat myself on the back and then give myself an excuse to “let up a bit”. I’m afraid I know myself only too well! Funny how the mind rationalizes these things, eh?
    This is a good topic for this season of Lent, and I would like to wish everyone God’s blessings and support as we approach that most Holy of days, Good Friday. Thank God that Jesus too exercised the most supreme act of self-control in going to the Cross for us, otherwise we would not have any hope at all! Thank You Lord!

  2. Stephanie Silvester on March 19, 2011 at 9:23 am


    I really appreciate these thoughts on self-control; it is an area of great personal struggle for me. I find your reminder helpful, in moments of ‘wavering’, to reflect on the ‘big picture’ – I was reading an article in one of those cheesy “Perkolator” publications from Pizza Pizza (don’t worry, I was making very healthy eating choices ;0 ) that talked about the importance of not just thinking about what ‘foundations’ you’d like to build in your life, but also, the importance of writing these things down and using them as a visual reminder. Whether goals are financial, personal, relational – having a daily visual reminder of the self-control necessary to get there is a great idea. It’s very easy to rationalize when it’s all ‘in your mind’.

    That said, it’s nice to know that the self-control thing isn’t just up to me. Fruit of the Spirit … the closer my walk with God, the easier these things will become.

    I guess thinking ‘big picture’ is also thinking beyond this world. Lots of worries I have now fade when I remember I’m only here for, I don’t know, maybe 100 years at the most … and then life continues in a completely different place where I imagine the things of this world fade to almost total unimportance. Shifting this paradigm in my thoughts is also helpful with self-control.

    Finally, it’s a trust issue for me. I’m a ‘doer’. If I know I can act to make something happen, it’s tough for me to wait on God and trust that He will act on my behalf. I suppose it’s also difficult for me to trust how He will act.

    Anyway, those are my way-too-early-in-the-morning-to-be-thinking thoughts 🙂

    Thanks for all you do.


    • Carey on March 19, 2011 at 11:25 am

      I love the idea of a visual reminder…great idea. Thanks Stephanie.

      And Doug, thanks for the encouragement. The scripture is quite easy to understand – moreso than we often give it credit for.

  3. Doug Wilson on March 19, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Hi Carey,

    I have always struggled to interpret much of what I read in the Bible. You have a gift of pulling out the key points and making them relevant to my life. I am most appreciative of that and therefore enjoy these devotional messages. Thank you. I wish we lived closer to Barrie.

    All the Best!

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