We live in a world where we are discouraged to demonstrate self-control. We are told “do whatever you want to do; be happy, you deserve it; you owe it to yourself.” We are inundated with the “more-is-better mentality.” There is a fine line between self- indulgence and self-control. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of self-indulgence is “excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires, or whims.” In contrast, the definition of self-control is “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.”
When you think about your life would you say that your life is under control these days?
Are you indulging more than usual in, perhaps, food, spending, screen time, gaming, gambling, shopping, sex, gossiping, alcohol, drugs, etc.? Are you finding you are spending hours doing these things and other areas of your life are suffering? Do you wish your life was more in balance? Even after you indulge, do you ever find yourself thinking… “I still don’t feel good; this just isn’t enough. I am missing something; I need more.” Are you aware of why you turn to your go to “thing, habit?” Are you conscious of what you are thinking and feeling before you indulge? Can you label the feeling you are experiencing right before you turn to your “vice?” What is holding you back from being free of your negative habit?
Living a life of self-control is a process. We develop this over time by learning why we are doing what we are doing. Asking questions like what am I trying to avoid? What feeling am I trying to numb or “self-medicate.” Becoming aware and tolerating certain unpleasant feelings, takes time. We need to be patient with ourselves, partner with a good therapist or trusted friend, and be willing to uncover the root cause of our negative behaviors. As we do that, we can then learn to adopt new strategies to cope with unpleasant thoughts and feelings and choose healthier alternatives to feel more in control of our lives.
Self-control is ultimately a choice. It is choosing to do what you should even when you do not want to. It is thinking before you act and really considering the consequences. According to God’s Word, the following key scriptures come to mind:
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Romans 7:18 For I know nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out.
When focusing on the decision and action of self-control, we have an opportunity to ask God for help in those specific areas of life. When we admit we are totally powerless over our negative habits and ask God for self-control, He will change our lives. By doing this, it takes away the pressure of having to do this ourselves, and we acknowledge just how human and imperfect we all are. Simply inviting God in and partnering with Him can change everything. Have you given this a try?
During the month of February, take pause, reflect on your life and the decisions you are making. Remember we are all a work in progress. Let us embark on this journey together. Invite God into your situation and become more aware of the areas of your life that require more self-control and less self-indulge