Currently, there is so much chaos in the world, that lately, I have found myself reflecting on the fruits of the Spirit, the 9th of which, self-control, is regarded by many as the most important one. It's not surprising, since most of the problems with which many human beings grapple, involve a lack of self-control.
What is this much sought after quality called self-control, which so many of us practise in some areas of our lives, but struggle to apply in others? It is described as the ability to turn away from instant gratification and instead, to choose something of far greater value, despite the fact that it often involves devoting far more time and effort in pursuing it. Ask any set of parents, and they will tell you, that teaching their child that they cannot have everything they see, is one of the most difficult, challenging and painstaking tasks of child rearing. Self-control is thus something that we develop as a result of effective parenting, as well as from teachers and other role models.
The good news is, that practice makes perfect. Just as our muscles become stronger through regular training and exercise, so too can we improve our ability to apply self-control in any situation. Simple exercises are suggested, such as using one's non-dominant hand when opening a door or cleaning one's teeth, to a more challenging one, such as managing one's money more effectively by saving more and spending less. Or, for a person whose goal is to lead a healthier lifestyle, one can decide in advance to skip dessert after one's main meal. According to research, the most common dilemma is this one - the desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the long term, versus the desire to consume unhealthy meals and snacks on impulse.
It is worth bearing in mind that self-control, like the fuel in our vehicles, is a limited resource and can easily be depleted. It has been proven that low levels of glucose, the brain's fuel, can negatively affect our ability to practise self-control. By replenishing our supply of glucose, we can greatly enhance our capacity to practise self-control.
To live in harmony with others, we need to practise restraint by learning how to manage our responses more effectively otherwise we risk losing the happiness for which we all strive. To accomplish this, we need to get to know our triggers, and to moderate our words and actions. It was Thomas Acquinas who said that self-controlled people are able to preserve their lives. They do the right things to keep themselves happy and healthy.
" ...the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control." Which one do you think is the most important? Why?
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