What is self-control? The ability to control one’s actions in an area of temptation? Discipline to do things you must that you do not desire? However you define it, self-control is something that we all struggle with in some way.
Regarding this fruit of the spirit, we often find ourselves subjected to temptation and sometimes it is extremely difficult to abstain, or exercise moderation, whatever the situation calls for.
To further complicate matters, it is the holiday season now, and in many ways it is a time of joy and giving, of love and kindness. However, it can also be the season of excess, whether it be situations like food or too much spending, and this can become a real problem if not contained. It can be a season of real struggle for some, making emotions surrounding the holiday season complicated.
Last year I discovered (after a lengthy diagnostic process) that I have bipolar I disorder. It is not something I’m ashamed of, but it is something I’m constantly aware of. That is because I am one of those people prone to loss of self-control, particularly when it comes to money. Poor impulse control is not a decision I make for myself, but a symptom of my disease. When it comes to spending , it doesn’t even have to be for myself – it can extend to buying for others. However the spending occurs, it can destroy my life and the lives of others on a catastrophic level if I can’t control it.
For years, I didn’t have a way to control it. I was simply following where it led. Now, with a diagnosis, I have methods I exercise in my life to help control my spending, but still there is no guarantee. And often, I find myself overlooking the One who is the source of exactly what I need.
In those times of difficulty, it is not my first inclination to pray. I often do not ask Him to give me strength and restraint, and the ability to trust others who know better than I do when it comes to my struggle. To me, this is the key to self control. That is not to say that my condition is not real or that it can be magically fixed, but with treatment and help, especially from God, self-control can be a reality.
Whenever I am in that place of desire, of lack of self-control, I have handed over my credit cards. I have deleted my shopping carts. I have passed on going to stores and browsing. I don’t window shop. But my illness, in all its power and deceptiveness, sometimes finds a way. There is always a way around to fulfilling that burning desire to spend. In the end it always comes to me. That thing I have to have, do I really need it? Will purchasing this help or harm me in any way, whether financially, relationally, or otherwise? Am I honoring God in the way I spend my money?
When it comes to self-control, I know that while I did not choose to have bipolar disorder and struggle with impulsivity, I have to want it. I have to step away from the computer, or walk out of that store. But I need help doing that. Help that God is more than willing to give.
Does that mean I never spend? Of course not! We are not dealing in extremes here, unless the situation is dire and you’re about to go bankrupt, but that’s another conversation entirely. I believe, that to obtain self-control, we have to find balance.
Maybe your hot-button area regarding self-control this holiday season is like mine. Maybe it’s something different. But no matter what that struggle is, it all comes back to the same Person, the Supplier of the fruit of the spirit.
So come and be filled.