Self-control: the basis of all virtues
Self-control: the basis of all virtues
“Like a city whose walls are broken through, is a person who lacks self- control” (Proverbs 25:28).
“To rule self and subdue our passions is the more praiseworthy because so few know how to do it”- Francesco Guicciardini.
Self-control is the ability to control one’s emotions, behavior and desires in the face of external demands in order to function in the society. In Psychology, it is sometimes called self-regulation. Self-control is essential in behavior to achieve goals and to avoid impulses and emotions that could be negative. Self-control is an effort that is intended to help achieve the goal of success. Failing to control oneself often leads to failure.
Six strategies for self-control:
With this Success/Failure Dichotomy in mind, let us look at the following six strategies for self-control; they come from a research conducted at Florida State University:
Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-controlled machine. It improves your emotional and spiritual intelligence. When you read the Word of God and meditate on it, you internalize the eternal truth that prepares you for success in this world and for the Kingdom of God.
When you eat right and drink right, you gain self-control. Your eating habit reveals whether or not you are a self-controlled or not. Those who eat and drink anyhow should therefore beware.
Exercise makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you exercise 30 minutes BY walking or jogging daily, five times in a week, you can avoid the risks of high blood pressure, heart attack and other fatal diseases.
Sleep but avoid oversleep. Eight hours of sleep is the normal healthy sleeping time/day. It is not healthy to have less than six hours of sleep per day. Those of us who sleep in our hostels all day should watch out. Also, those who try to burn the candle at both ends should take caution. If you get enough sleep, you will be able to exert self-control over your eating habit, your emotion and other areas of life.
Ride the wave:
Desire has a strong tendency to rise and fall like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, the wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control.
It is critical that you learn to forgive yourself and move on, no matter how deep you have fallen in sin or in social misdemeanor. Be mindful of your guilt feeling, but don’t wallow in it. Instead, seek to do what makes for your improvement in the future. Know that falling is not a tragedy but falling and failure to get up again is the greatest tragedy.
If you put the above six strategies for self-control into practice, you will develop a high degree of self-control that will foster emotional balance, calmness or peace, determination, confidence and will power to always stand for the right.
Self-control as the basis of morality and spirituality:
To be constantly self-controlled, we have to be spirit-filled. We must be fully possessed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Solomon is right when he wrote: “Like a city whose walls are broken through, is a person who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). We need self-control to live to please God. Without self- control, we cannot express our love to God and our neighbours. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep (or obey) my commandments (John 14:15). Yes, to gain self-control, the Holy Spirit must be in full control of our hearts.
It is with self-control that we observe the 10 rules of God to live by (Exodus 20:3-17). The rules are as follows:
• Don’t worship other gods.
• Don’t make any idols.
• Don’t misuse the name of God.
• Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.
• Honor Mum and Dad; so also all other constituted authorities.
• Don’t murder.
• Don’t commit adultery or fornication.
• Don’t steal.
• Don’t lie.
• Don’t covert.
Obeying these rules is a matter of life and death. Without self-control, we cannot obey them. They are the rules to live by. They are the basis of the ethics of Jesus as we read in His sermons on the mountain (Matthew 5, 6 and 7). Please, try to read these chapters at your own time for your personal benefit.
Pauline ethics went further to expand the 10 laws of God by giving us the fruit of the Spirit which are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control (Gal. 5:22).
Self-control is last because it is the fruit of the Spirit that facilitates the eight dimensions of the fruit of the Spirit that come before. The Bible does not say ‘fruits’, but ‘fruit’ because the intention is love manifested in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That is the nature of Agape Love- Christ-like love. Without self-control as foundation, you cannot love God and you neighbour. You cannot have joy without self-control. You cannot have peace without self-control. You cannot practice patience without self-control. You cannot be kind to anyone without self-control. Goodness, faithfulness and gentleness are impossible without self-control. Without self-control, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, could not have made the unprecedented sacrifice to establish ABUAD. Our Founder personifies a high degree of self-control. What a courage and grace from God!
No wonder Lao Tzu says: “Than self-restraint, there is none better”. That is to say, no other virtue is better than self -control or Self-restraint.
Self-control is the mother of all virtues. It is the foundation of all we have to do to please God, to obey His commandments and to do His will. It is the virtue we need to be an asset in the society. It is the virtue we need to be in union with God and to maintain genuine friendship with fellow human beings. We need Jesus to give us the power of self-control.
Self-control is needed to be able to walk on the narrow road as in the parable of Jesus (Matthew 7:14). But only few people find this road.
This is in tune with the statement of Francesco Guicciardini as follows: “To rule self and subdue our passions is the more praiseworthy because so few know how to do it”.
The purpose of this article is to learn how to do it. One of the best ways to exhibit the self-control that leads to success here in this world and in the world to come is to know that faith not fear, love not hate, joy not sorrow, peace not tension, freedom not bondage is the role we should choose to play in life and in ABUAD community. Why? Because life is not made by the dreams you dream but by the choices you make. Right choices constitute the path of wisdom. That is the knowledge we need to seek. We should cultivate the sense of God’s presence and practice self-control in order to experience and nurture a balanced, productive and happy life here and here after.
The call for self-control corresponds with the call of wisdom to live in God’s presence for power to discern between good and evil, obedience and disobedience, righteousness and wickedness, between right and wrong and choose what is right in order to have success in all life endeavours and ultimately eternal life in Jesus.
Alalade is a Professor of Ethics and Christian Philosophy, a Minister of the Gospel and ABUAD’s Director, GST.