Can you control yourself?

12 05 2008

I heard Joyce Meyer on TV recently, and she was speaking on self-control and self-discipline.  I want to share an example she used.  Suppose you are trying to lose some weight.  Let’s also suppose you are at your favorite ice cream place, and they are giving you a large, free serving of whatever kind of ice cream you wanted, with unlimited toppings.  And you are really hungry.  You know you shouldn’t take it because it’s not healthy and you’re on a diet, but you really want it.  Could you say no?  Or, to rephrase the question more appropriately, would you say no?

I suspect most people would give in and eat the ice cream, especially considering it’s free.  I’ll admit it — I probably would.  Some people will say that they can’t help it, that they just can’t say no to such things.  But her example concluded with someone walking up behind you, sticking a gun to your head, and promising to shoot you if you eat the ice cream.  Could you say no then?

As the hypothetical situation shows, we can say no, if we want to.  The key in the latter part of the example was that you were very well aware of the consequences of your actions.  Of course, we usually aren’t in such a situation (thankfully!), but there are always consequences for everything we do.

Let me give you another example.  Suppose you’re having an disagreement / argument with your spouse, and the conversation is starting to get heated.  A lot of people will lose their temper, become irrational, and yell some things that they don’t mean and/or that shouldn’t be said.  They may say they couldn’t help it, but look at it this way.  During the middle of your heated argument, the phone rings.  You answer it.  Do you continue yelling angrily, out of control, or do you speak relatively calmly, saying something like, “Hi. … We’re fine. Things are good.”?  If so, then you obviously were able to harness your temper.

The truth is, we do have the ability for self-control and self-discipline, but we usually don’t want to exercise it.  It is easier to give in to how we feel or what we want to do, rather than taking every thought captive and making it obedient to the standards we have set for ourselves.  (And we should have standards we want to live by, which are higher than we are currently living.)  We have the choice of how to react and respond to every situation we face.  I realize it’s difficult, and it may not be natural, but it can be done.  It may be one of the hardest things to do, but you can overcome those temptations.

If you know me, you might be thinking, “That’s easy for you to say, because you’re so calm.”  But what you may not realize is that I wasn’t always this way.  I’ve lost my temper a number of times, and in those times I’ve done some things I regretted.  But once I learned that I didn’t have to be that way, I changed.  I haven’t lost my temper in many years now.  Of course I still get frustrated or angry once in a while, because sometimes things happen that bother me, but it’s my choice how I respond.

Even if it seems impossible to overcome our destructive habits and tendencies, remember that it is possible.  And we don’t have to do it all in our own strength — God wants to help us, by changing us from the inside out.  God wants to take the frustration and bitterness, replacing it with peace and love.  But we have to choose to receive it, and we have to make the right decisions in those situations.  Fortunately, it gets easier the more we do it.

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One response

14 05 2008
Sidharth

That’s an awesome post, Beppo. I love it. =)

I like the gun part especially. I hope there aren’t those who wanna have ice creams at the cost of their own lives! =D

Sid

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