“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls”
Making the most of our opportunities in life will always involve keying in on purposes and priorities, and developing a workable game plan. But even the best laid plans will fail if we lack the ability to make ourselves do what we ought to do, when we ought to do it! In other words, an critical component of successful living is self-discipline. Without it we end up either doing what we shouldn’t, or not doing what we should. The headline-grabbing moral failures of our day, like Bill Clinton, all knew better – but did it anyway. Without self-control we are doomed to a life of passivity, failure, loss, regret, and shame.
But lets face it. If self-control was easy everybody would be doing it. The fact is, it’s not easy and it never will be easy. But there some things we can do to make it easier:
- Keep your eyes on the prize. There is some kind of payoff in everything that we do. A man may push himself to work long hard hours, all for the sake of family he loves more than the hardship he endures. Students force themselves to study, giving up fun and games in order to gain a valuable degree. Athletes forego a life of ease in order win the title. Couples scrimp and save in order to buy a home. These are all people who kept their eyes on the prize. When we feel tempted to take a detour of some kind we need to remind ourselves of what we stand to forfeit if we do. A great definition of self-discipline is “Giving up something good in order to gain something better.”
- Make yourself accountable. If you have an area of habitual weakness that threatens to undermine your health or happiness, give someone permission to ask you hard questions. Sure, we would all like to keep our failures a secret. But the truth always comes out eventually anyway, and even if we keep it hidden, it still works to corrode and distort our character. Just knowing that someone is going to hold us accountable forces us to work that much harder to hold ourselves accountable first.
- Learn to lean on the Holy Spirit. Just when you were gritting your teeth and resolving to do better! It might surprise you to learn that self-control is a work of the Spirit in our lives. When we seek to follow in Christ’s footsteps the Holy Spirit works from within to strengthen and enable us to do it. What we could never do in our own strength, we can do through his!