According to Psychology Today, “It is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, we can plan, evaluate alternative actions, and, often enough, avoid doing things we’ll later regret. It is restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires. The ability to exert self-control is typically called willpower.”
According to scripture, its obedience, holiness, and a choice we have to make so we can have all God has promised.
“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”” 1 Peter 1:13-16
In my opinion, it’s the most difficult of the fruit of the Spirit, followed by patience. One I’m having to practice more than I’d like to admit; with my kids, my husband, myself, friends, God, and especially around negative or just outright obnoxious people. In truth, it’s taking a lot more effort to exercise restraint.
What my self-control looks like: In the last 24 hours, it’s refraining from acting on that impulse to slap that obnoxious person, who is either so unaware they lack any tact and therefore says exactly what they think or is just THAT unapologetically uncouth, for the snide insinuation they had to jokingly say. Or to otherwise snap one right back at them and end it with an innocent chuckle so as to keep things clean and peaceful. Instead, you smile and keep your cool. Although at this point you can feel your blood pressure rising and that restraint to keep your hand firmly placed at your side, is getting harder to fight and you’re starting to taste blood from biting your tongue so hard.
Then there’s the negative people who are just doom and gloom about everything. You know, the ones who suck the life out of the room the moment they speak or even upon entering! Even in what should be the happiest season of their life they refuse to find joy but instead choose to focus on whatever downside they can. These people make me want to beat some life-giving sense into them, because just replying with a life-giving response only provokes them to spout more negativity. Ok, I realize I sound like a violent person, but I assure you I’m quite skilled in that area of self-control. No assault charges have been made to date.
However, my self-control fails: in the last week, I’ve struggled with frustration with my kids and husband with their attitudes and lack of cooperation on things, resulting in derogatory tones and even some yelling. Epic fail of fighting against lies of the enemy he’s been feeding me about being inadequate. And with God for not doing things the way I want or as quickly as I want Him to, therefore resulting in an embarrassing amount of yelling at Him and ending with me giving Him the silent treatment for the rest of the day. Oh come on! You know you’ve done it too! And God bless my poor friends who’ve unfortunately been subject to my emotional outbursts in their attempts to counsel or make me feel better. Lord! I WAS the very obnoxious negative person that I can’t stand!
Everyone experiences things like this; its inevitable since we’re human, but it’s our choice to have more victories than fails. Aside from the fact that we have a better quality of life when we do so, it’s a choice we must make because we’re set apart. How we respond is a reflection of what’s in our hearts. I want my heart to reflect Jesus, because that may be the most of Jesus some people will ever experience. I must be holy because He’s holy, and He lives in me. ~ Heather
Your Turn: In those moments of difficulty, do you choose restraint? What would it look like if you did? Has there been a time where you did or someone else did with you and it changed the outcome? We’d love to hear from you! ~ Breath on Paper