Keeping in check, restraining, or controlling one’s person, actions, speech, or thoughts. The Hebrew and Greek terms involving self-control literally denote having power or control over oneself. Self-control is a ‘fruit of God’s spirit’ (Ga 5:22, 23)
What We Need to Control
Our thoughts and emotions.
What we let our minds dwell on either helps us or hinders us in our effort to please Jehovah. Self-control is needed if we are to heed the Scriptural counsel found at Philippians 4:8, to keep considering things that are true, chaste, and virtuous. The psalmist David expressed similar sentiments in prayer, saying:“Let the . . . meditation of my heart become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah my Rock and my Redeemer.” -Psalm 19:14
Our words, our speech.
Many, many scriptures counsel us to exercise control of our tongues. For example: “The true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should prove to be few.” -Ecclesiastes 5:2 “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” -Proverbs 10:19 “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be . . . Let all . . . screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness.”-Ephesians 4:29, 31
And Paul goes on to give counsel to put away from us foolish talking and obscene jesting.
[Ephesians 5:3, 4. (See also—James 3:5-10)] Our actions.
Jesus summed up the whole matter regarding our actions toward fellow humans when he gave what is generally termed the “Golden Rule,” saying: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them; this, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.” -Matthew 7:12. Truly, it takes self-control not to let our selfish inclinations or outside pressures or temptations cause us to treat others differently from the way we would want them to treat us.
One area in which great self-control is needed has to do with our
relations with those of the opposite sex. Christians are commanded: “Flee from sexual immorality.” -1 Corinthians 6:18, (New International
Why Self-Control Is Such a Challenge
Self-control does not come easily because, as all Christians know, we have three powerful forces working against our exercise of self-control.
1.Satan and his demons. The Scriptures leave no doubt as to their reality. Peter warned: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Peter 5:8.
2. This world that lies “in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil. Concerning it, the apostle John wrote: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17
Unless we exercise self-control and strongly resist any tendency to love the world, we will succumb to its influence. (1John 5:19)
3. Our own inherited fleshly weaknesses and shortcomings. Our inborn selfish tendencies furnish a challenge for us when it comes to exercising self-control. Those tendencies reside in the figurative heart, concerning which Jesus said:“Out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies.” -Matthew 15:19.
That is why Paul wrote: “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. If, now, what I do not wish is what I do, the one working it out is no longer I, but the sin dwelling in me.” -Romans 7:19, 20.
However, this was not a losing battle, for Paul also wrote: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Corinthians 9:27. Pummeling his body required exercising self-control.
Qualities and aids to help us exercise self-control.
Fearing God and Hating What Is Bad
One of the greatest aids in cultivating self-control is the fear of God, not a morbid fear, but the wholesome fear of displeasing our loving heavenly Father."...Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah. In whose commandments he has taken very much delight." -Psalms 112:1. How important to have a reverent fear of God. Yes, the fear of God will help us to exercise self-control.
Closely related to the fear of Jehovah is the hating of bad. “The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad...” -Proverbs 8:13. In turn, the hating of what is bad also helps us to exercise self-control. "O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad..."-Psalm 97:10. That which is bad is often so pleasurable, so tempting, so enticing that we simply must hate it in order to fortify ourselves against it. "Search for what is good, and not what is bad, to the end that you people may keep living; and that thus Jehovah the God of armies may come to be with you, just as you have said. Hate what is bad, and love what is good, and give justice a place in the gate..." -Amos 5:14, 15.All such hating of what is bad has the effect of strengthening our determination to exercise self-control and thus serves as a protection to us. "...Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good." -Romans 12:9.
Appreciate Self-Control, as the Course of Wisdom
Appreciate the wisdom of displaying self-control. Jehovah asks us to exercise self-control for our own benefit. (Compare Isaiah 48:17, 18.) His Word contains much counsel showing how wise it is to curb our selfish inclinations by practicing self-control. We simply cannot escape God’s unchangeable laws. His Word tells us: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” (Galatians 6:7, 8) An obvious example is that of eating and drinking. Many ills result because people eat or drink too much. Yielding to selfishness robs a person of self-respect. More than that, an individual cannot yield to selfishness without also damaging his relationships with others. Most serious of all, lack of self-control damages our relationship with our heavenly Father.
We must keep telling ourselves that selfishness is self-defeating. An outstanding theme of the book of Proverbs, which stresses self-discipline, is that selfishness simply does not pay and there is wisdom in exercising self-control. (Proverbs 14:29; 16:32) Notice, that self-discipline involves much more than simply avoiding what is bad. Self-discipline, or self-control, is also needed to do what is right, which may be difficult because this goes against our sinful inclinations.
Unselfish Love Helps
Paul’s description of love at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 shows that its power can help us to exercise self-control. “Love is long-suffering.” To be long-suffering takes self-control. “Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up.” The quality of love helps us to control our thoughts and emotions, to curb any tendency to be jealous, to brag, or to get puffed up. Love moves us to be just the opposite, making us humble, lowly in mind, as Jesus was. (Matthew 11:28-30).
Paul goes on to say that love “does not behave indecently.” It also takes self-control to act decently at all times. The quality of love keeps us from greed, from solely ‘looking out for our own interests.’ Love “does not become provoked.” How easy it is to get provoked because of what others say or do! But love will help us to exercise self-control and not say or do things that we would afterward regret. Love “does not keep account of the injury.” Human nature is inclined to harbor a grudge or to cherish resentment. But love will help us to dismiss such thoughts from our minds. Love “does not rejoice over unrighteousness.” It takes self-control not to take pleasure in what is unrighteous, such as pornography or degrading TV soap operas. Love also “bears all things” and “endures all things.” It takes self-control to put up with things, to endure trialsome or burdensome things and not let them discourage us, cause us to retaliate in kind, or incline us to quit serving Jehovah.
If we truly love our heavenly Father and appreciate his wonderful qualities and all he has done for us, we will want to please him by exercising self-control at all times. Also, if we truly love our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, and appreciate all he has done for us, we will heed his command‘to pick up our torture stake and follow him continually.’ -Mark 8:34. That certainly requires that we exercise self-control. Love for our Christian brothers and sisters will also keep us from hurting them by taking some selfish course.
Faith and Humility as Helpers
A great aid in exercising self-control is faith in God and his promises. Faith will enable us to trust in Jehovah and wait for his due time to set matters straight. The apostle Paul makes the same point when he says at Romans 12:19: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, . . . for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” In this regard, humility can also help us. If we are humble, we will not be quick to take offense because of imagined or real injuries. We will not rashly take the law into our own hands, but will exercise self-control and be willing to wait on Jehovah. "Do not show yourself heated up because of the evildoers...Let anger alone and leave rage; Do not show yourself heated up only to do evil." -Psalm 37:1, 8.
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