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“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”  Proverbs 25: 28

While you legally may be an adult at 18, age is not what makes one a true adult. The difference between adults and children is that adults have learned the art of self-control.  Not all people have learned that skill.  For many, their behavior is dictated by their emotions.  The problem is that without self-control, you cannot be a successful human being.

Of course, none of us has perfect self-control. Push my buttons for long enough, and I eventually will fly off the handle.  I don’t have limitless reserves of patience.  Nor do most people.  We are human beings, and therefore we are imperfect.  However, as we mature, we develop greater control over what we do and say.

Without self-control, our relationships cannot be what they should be. I would venture to guess that every broken human relationship is the result of one person (or both people) doing and saying things that they shouldn’t have.  For instance, when someone has been offended or hurt, instead of stepping back and taking a deep breath, they have lashed out.  Or perhaps someone did what looked like fun and failed to consider how their actions would affect others.

Self-control also is necessary for us to achieve our goals. The older I get, the more I realize how little natural talent matters.   Let’s face it.  There are a lot of very talented people out there who aren’t fulfilling their potential.  That is because the willingness to work hard trumps natural talent every time.  And hard work is the product of self-control.

It would be lovely if I could tell you that you that learning how to exercise self-control is like riding a bike. Once you learn how to do it, you know how to do it forever.  Sadly that is not how self-control works.  Learning how to control your behavior is a lifelong struggle for each of us.  However, over time, it gets easier.

There are a couple of things to focus on when developing self-control. One is to always consider how your actions affect other people.  Everything that you do affects others.  Even if you live alone on a mountaintop, your actions affect other people.  Why?  Because your entire family is wondering why you live alone on that mountain, and for heaven’s sake, why can’t you come for Sunday dinner every once in a while?  So it doesn’t matter what your life circumstances are, your actions always are affecting others.  And that is a fact each of us should take seriously.  We each have a responsibility to have a positive effect on other human beings.  If you aren’t having a positive effect, then to put it bluntly, you are failing at life, regardless of how much money you make or how much fame you enjoy.

You also should concern yourself with whether your actions are contributing to your God-given purpose on this earth. I suspect that God didn’t put anyone on this earth to watch 4 hours of television a day.  So if you are spending large amounts of your free time on pursuits that have nothing to do with serving others or the world, then it is time to gain some control over how you spend your time.  You may need to make some hard choices that are uncomfortable.  If you have been called to a certain career, you may have to give up television to spend your evenings honing your skills in that field.  If you have been called to serve the poor, then some of your evenings may be spent working on projects with your church missions committee.  Or you may spend some of your free time volunteering at the local soup kitchen.  Of course, we all need time to relax in order to refuel our spirits.  But if we have a calling, then we have to sacrifice some of our free time in order to fulfill the reason that God put us on this earth.

Living a life of self-control is incredibly hard. However, the rewards are massive.  When you live a life of self-control, you have better relationships.  Your time is spent in ways that are productive and that give you a feeling of satisfaction.  And the world is simply a better place because you are in it.

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