Exercising Self Control

This post, as counter-intuitive as it seems, is part of a series on covenant marriage. It probably won’t be clear why for one or two more posts.

How do you guarantee that you’re going to stick by your convictions and principles?

This January, you’ve probably seen plenty of articles talking about online services meant to hold you to your New Year’s resolutions. The most famous of these is Stikk which lets you set goals and pay forfeits if you can’t achieve them. Users often arrange to pay their forfeit to a group they hate, to try to guarantee they make their goal. The Secular Student Alliance is currently conducting a fundraiser in which participants donate to the SSA if they make their goal and donate to organizations they dislike if they fail (the Executive Director of the SSA has pledged to lose weight or donate to Campus Crusade for Christ.

That kind of scheme works for simple physical commitments, but, when I was little, I used to spend a lot of time worrying about how to keep myself moral when I got older. My concerns were the result of reading Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl. In a passage I can’t for the life of me find (my copy is at home), Alcott as narrator discusses how the giddy whirl of society wrecks many promising young girls and breaks their hearts and spirits. Reading and rereading the book, I counted myself lucky that I was extremely unpopular and thus couldn’t be seduced by the vices of society. After all, even the saintly Polly yields to the temptation of a pair of bronze boots. In my mind, these vices included drugs, sex, and vanity (particularly in the form of makeup and shaving my legs).

I knew I might change my mind and that most people my age did become attached to the particular habits I listed above. The thought terrified me. If I compromised on any point, no matter how minor, I would be giving myself tacit permission to yield on the others. After all, solitary as I was, I thought of myself as the lone guardian of my virtue, beset by an inherently wicked and corrupting society. If I weakened, even for a moment, there was no guarantee anyone could or would pull me back from the abyss.  No room for nuances.

Luckily, when I got older, I found a better way to police myself…
Continued tomorrow in part 2

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://barefootbum.blogspot.com Larry, The Barefoot Bum

    To be honest, I just don’t understand this kind of thinking. If you don’t stick by your convictions, how can you call them convictions, i.e. ideas you’re actually convinced of?

    I go into more detail here: Sticking by your convictions

  • http://liseusetheloverofreading.wordpress.com/ Natalie

    In regard to attempts at self-perfected morality, reference Franklin’s attempt at
    http://www.whatsoproudlywehail.org/curr/project-for-moral-perfection-by-benjamin-franklin/

    liseusetheloverofreading.wordpress.com/

    • leahlibresco

      I love his autobiography!


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