As Christians, we know that self-control is listed in the Fruit of the Spirit verses from Galatians:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
As I read through these verses this morning, I began thinking about my own self-control and how I can help my children with this particular attribute.
As most of you know, I have a wide age-range of children. My oldest is 18 and will start college in just a few weeks. I have three girls in the middle: 16, 14, and 12 1/2.
And then I have my youngest who will start 1st grade very soon.
Helping young ones develop self-control looks quite different than helping tweens and teenagers. The challenges of life are different, so my approach is varied.
As a disclaimer, when I reference the concept of self-control in this post, I am referring to the Biblical definition of self-control.
Ligonier Ministries refers to the concept of self-control as this:
To have self-control is to be able to keep one’s impulses in check and to not indulge in fits of rage or otherwise show ire that is not commensurate with the issue at hand.Tabletalkmagazine.com
For my 6 year old boy, we work on not interrupting others, letting others go first, leaving the last piece of pie for someone else (or at least splitting it in half!), doing tasks with a happy heart the first time he is asked, making his bed each day.
Essentially we work on the whole dying-to-self concept, but of course I don’t use that wording with him yet.
With my older children, the ideas are a bit different since the challenges of self-control are different as we change seasons of life.
With my older children, we talk about what is appropriate – and what is not – for screen time. There are many conversations about not letting emotions “win out” or speech that is harsh and mean.
Paul is gracious enough to give us a whole list of topics where we need to exercise self-control in Galatians 5:19-21.
As I was reading about self-control today, I came across this verse in Proverbs:
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
Proverbs 25:28 ESV
The word picture that the Amplified version provides was so helpful to me:
Like a city that is broken down and without walls [leaving it unprotected]
Is a man who has no self-control over his spirit [and sets himself up for trouble].
Proverbs 25:28 Amplified Version
When we think of an ancient city with walls that are crumbling and have gaping holes, it is easy to see how an enemy could effortlessly attack it.
The city is inviting trouble since the inefficient wall provides little protection.
Proverbs points out that the same could be said regarding ourselves and self-control.
If self-control is the wall that helps protect us from the enemy’s foothold, then we must make sure our wall is strong and secure.
Can the enemy still get in even though the wall is fortified? Certainly yes, but it makes it so much harder for him to do so.
Paul tells us the way to make sure our self-control is shored up in Galatians 5:16 which reads:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
How do you walk by the Spirit?
Daily read His word, consistently pray throughout the day, turn to the Lord for guidance in all circumstances, surround yourself with other believers that encourage your relationship with God.
Lord God, self-control is hard when we rely only on ourselves. Please help us to walk by the Spirit hour by hour so we can increase our own self-control and model that for our children. Give us wisdom, Lord, in how to help our young ones develop self-control. Give our children a desire to walk with you daily and to choose you above all else. Thank you, God, for refining us and guiding us to be more like your Son, Jesus Christ.
In His Name I pray, Amen.