On Self-Control

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. (Psalm 85:8 ESV)

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28 ESV)

My first thought about self-control was that it was an ability to maintain composure in social situations. When I was in third grade, my teacher would give me an “S-“ on my report card in the category of Self-Control. My father explained that my behavior in class was probably disruptive and that I needed to fix that. I knew I had tendencies to be rude or have emotional outbursts, so I did my best to correct myself. That was my very first lesson on self-management, which carried me all the way into adulthood.

Today, I learned another aspect of self-control. It has to do with managing personal behavior but in the context of not letting people’s negativity or discouragement weigh you down. Sometimes we encounter bad critics, whether they be family, friends, or co-workers. So to avoid displeasing them or create more conflict, some of us may remain quiet and give up on a project or a dream even when the Lord has graciously blessed us with enjoyment and success in our efforts.

Jesus certainly understood this because he faced heavy opposition during his ministry. He at times confronted his critics and other times he retreated to safety. But what he didn’t do was give up on the Father’s will for his life. Now I am not saying that every ambition we have is from God and that we should ignore other people’s opinions. In fact, there are appropriate use of opinions if they are meant to be constructive. For example, if our relationships are suffering, then we need to listen to the people we disappointed. If there is any truth to how we neglected our time with them, then maybe it is worth evaluating our schedules to jettison any activities that disrupt our connection with family and friends.

However, if their grievances are borne out of envy or malice when you have done nothing wrong to them, then ask God for advisement on how you should handle the situation. Should you continue the work, or do you need to take a break? The important thing here is that Lord will reveal your next steps and support them with his word and godly counsel from a group of trusted friends. In essence, self-control can be attained by the Holy Spirit if we allow him to take the lead. I often get the impression from God that I should pause and talk to him first before I make my next move. He is certainly faithful and will not lead me into “folly.”