Call Now To Speak with an Eating Disorder Specialist 1-888-884-4913 / 425-771-5166
Self-control Requires Practice

Self-control Requires Practice

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.

 

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

As human beings, we want to be in control of our own lives. This is a universal characteristic, whether people profess faith or not. Control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as slavery. The paradox is that we invite excessities into our lives from our position of control. We use our control and decide to engage in the Gotta Have It! behavior.

Excessities, however, are notoriously bad guests. They don’t tend to stay within the boundaries we set. Once told yes, they don’t like to be told no, and they perpetually promise what they can’t deliver. Before long, what you invited into your life to obey your needs ends up becoming the one you obey. The sad reality is we begin excessities thinking they will be our slaves – to bring us significance or value or pleasure or numbness whenever we decide – but they end up enslaving us.

Perhaps one of the most insightful groups into this phenomenon of control and slavery and how one can turn into the other rather quickly is Alcoholics Anonymous. The alcohol doesn’t take that first drink thinking it’s going to take over his or her life. No one forces them to take that first drink or the second or maybe even the third. After that, however, it gets a little murky. Alcoholism is a very slippery slope, and Alcoholics Anonymous bands together people in sobriety with a Twelve-Step path to recovery. Here are those Twelve Steps. As you read them, think in the context of Gotta Have It! behavior, whether it’s alcohol or not:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. {1}

The Twelve Steps, especially the first three, speak to a very fundamental reality that is constantly misconstrued and overlooked: first, that when our lives become unmanageable, they are out of control; and second, that in order to get back control, we have to completely give up control. Jesus puts it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). Again, self-control isn’t something you can arrive at all on your own. Rather, you gain self-control when you give it up to something else.

Giving up control is a frightening prospect for many people. They believe the control they have is the only thing holding the monsters of life at bay. What they don’t realize is that this control isn’t opening the door to freedom; it’s keeping the door closed with them imprisoned inside. The monsters aren’t being kept on the other side of the door; the monsters are really on their side of the door, being kept in.

As topsy-turvy and scary as it sounds, the best way to gain control is to give it up. You need to understand an important point: The control you are so hesitant to give up is in reality not your control; it is the control the excessity has over you. This is a tug-of-war of wills – yours versus the excessity. You need to give up your control, as the AA second step says, to a Power greater than yourself.

{1} “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” A.A. World Services, Inc., www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf.