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So many people hit their young-adult years believing control is all about saying yes to those things they were previously denied.  I think it takes us a bit longer to figure out that often the best way to exhibit our control is by choosing to say no to those same things.  I guess you could call this the difference between control and self-control.  So often we think control is about finally making sure we get what we want.  Self-control, however, is more about making sure we get what we need.

Self-control is not easy to come by, requiring the long view over instant gratification and initially appearing harsh, unpleasant, and virtually impossible to employ.  It requires practice, patience, and perseverance.  Self-control presupposes an intimate knowledge of self, knowing what is and is not good and appropriate for you.  It’s the anomaly of the person who is able to put down work and go home at the end of the day, saying no to the urge to stay another hour (when you consistently find yourself – once again – being the last one in the office to lock up).

Self-control in Scripture is interesting and sometimes amusing.  Here are some examples from the Old Testament that talk about what happens when you have self-control and what happens when you don’t:

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. (Prov: 16:32)

The warrior says yes to the battle while the patient man says wait.  Being able to control your temper can be more of a triumph than engaging in the battle.

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.  (Prov. 25:28)

Self-control is a valuable defense against all kinds of problems.  If you lack it, you leave yourself wide open and vulnerable.

A food gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  (Prov. 29:11)

Giving full vent to anger or any excessity rarely produces the fruit you expect or projects you in a positive light.  Anger may get you what you want, but it robs you of what you need, especially in relationships.

The New Testament is certainly not silent where self-control is involved.  It is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  Its value is recognized and affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 8.  Leaders in the church are to be self-controlled (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:5).  Self-control is valued across the age spectrum (Titus 2:2, 6).  Each person is instructed to exercise self-control (1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).

it is obvious that self-control is a virtue and a value.  It can also, sadly, be in short supply in life.  You know it is good.  You want to be able to exercise control over self.  None of us want to admit we aren’t able to control ourselves.  So how do you develop a better grasp of saying no?  The answer, of course, lies within each person.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 38 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.