There is a powerful and true story told of a research project on self control in the early 1960’s. The researchers gave a group of 5 year old children each one marshmallow. The kids were clearly instructed they would get a second marshmallow if they waited to eat the one they had. They had to wait about 15 to 20 minutes.
The kids reacted differently. Some ignored the instructions and immediately gobbled up the treat in front of them. Others did whatever they could to keep their minds on other things, even turning away completely and engaging themselves elsewhere, waiting for the reward of a second marshmallow.
The researchers then followed the kids in the ensuing years to see what had become of their lives. Their reports varied dramatically. Without exception, the kids who disregarded the instructions and gave in to the temptations had accomplished little. But the kids who resisted and waited had achieved success, evidenced by higher grade point averages, more money, and fit bodies.
“He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray.” Proverbs 10:17
Self control might be an unpopular topic these days, but it isn’t unimportant. Self control, as taught consistently in the Bible, is a vital part of a successful and wise person’s makeup. And it surely is a part of a righteous man or woman’s character.
There’s a great need for self control because so much of what we can do, we shouldn’t do. Further, our natural tendencies incline toward the bad, not the good. That’s pretty much why we are tempted almost every day; if we defaulted to the right we’d rarely, if ever, need to engage in self control.
Some might ask: how do I practice more self control? Is it merely an act of “trying” to will the right thing? And how far will that get me?
Here are a few thoughts on how to realize self control in day to day living:
1. Realize temptations are NEVER as good as they seem.
No matter what the issue, the evil things we desire don’t measure up to our imaginations. In other words, our minds create far more glorious and fulfilling satisfactions than the temptations actually deliver. Whether you’re talking about getting drunk, illicit sex, cheating someone, getting revenge, etc and etc… they are all the same – they just don’t deliver. They disappoint.
2. Realize you can be a lot stronger than you make yourself believe.
One of the great tricks of the devil is self defeat. He’s a master at telling us, in all his clever ways, that we are weak and miserable failures. He reminds us constantly. The truth is, through the help that God supplies, we are far stronger than his devious enticements. God has given His children the ability to overcome even the greatest of all temptations; and it’s a promise! 1 Corinthians 10:13
3. Realize the benefits of resisting temptation far outweigh the thrills of succumbing.
Living life is proof enough of this truth. In every facet of life, one can experience the blessings of doing the right thing and see that they trump any short-term satisfaction – many times over, without exception. Thrills last but for a moment, but blessings last forever.
Young or old, temptations are a part of life. We can’t change that reality. But we can make a habit of self control, and we should, for in doing we will reap massive benefits, and live exemplary lives, pleasing to God.