We live in New York City and almost every day, there is a news story about someone completely loosing it on the subway. They scream, they yell. They rant, they rave. Just yesterday, we were on a train where a guy got annoyed with another passenger and started mumbling racist condemnations in anger.
Why is it so hard for us to control ourselves? There is nothing wrong with emotions. But when we use them improperly, they get the best of us.
Many of us, in hindsight, wish we had more self-control. We wish we could calm ourselves down quicker or stop saying things we don’t mean. The Bible talks about self-control as a fruit of the Spirit. But how do we do it?
Our outburst are usually an attempt to make someone else pay for a wrong done. But it doesn’t work. We just enter into the realm of wrong-doing ourselves. When we take the focus off others and place it onto ourselves, we have stepped into the arena of self-control. All of those people loosing it on the subways are trying to fix something external and, in the process, revealing the internal turmoil of their character.
One thing that continually stunts our growth is our unwillingness to learn. We are afraid of failing because we think it says something permanent about who we are. We try to avoid the consequences of our actions because we feel they are a sentence for the crimes of our identity.
Consequences are lessons. If we run from them forever, we will never learn. We will never see the error of our ways, adopt healthy boundaries, or control our emotions.
Learning is essential for self-governance (the proactive side of self-control). When we approach life with pride, we fight at all costs to defend the systems we have developed. If we want to grow and change, we need to step into new ways of doing things – and that involves the humility to learn.
Quite simply, boundaries are about knowing where you stop and another begins. Self-control is about learning how to set boundaries for your own character and the way you interact with the world.
Boundaries are also an understanding of consequences. If I cross this line, I go to jail. Or feel ashamed, whatever the consequence may be. Understanding where these boundary lines are will help us to make sure we don’t cross them.
Self-control is not easy. It takes time and patience and work. It is like a muscle, we have to exercise it for it to strengthen and grow.