My Struggles with Self-Control

Deborah Sybil   |   October 23, 2023 

If I had to pick one of the attributes from the Fruit of the Spirit that I need to work on, it would be self-control. Self-control is an underrated quality. In the present generation of rights and freedoms, self-control is even becoming an undesirable virtue.

I have had my struggles with self-control. When I saw that this month’s writing theme was the "Fruit of the Spirit you most need to grow in personally," I knew what it was for me almost instantly. I have been thinking of this virtue this entire month, especially in the areas where I lack it. It would be too embarrassing to share the whole list, but here are a few areas where I need to grow:

1. Self-Control in Speech

It is good to have confidence in communication skills and persuasion, isn’t it? But it would not be wrong to say that I have ‘the gift of the gab' - which means to talk at length, typically about trivial matters. Ah! Now, this isn’t much of a virtue! With talking at length, there is more opportunity to sin. Proverbs 10:19 says, "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but He who restrains his lips is wise." This has been true in my life.

I am sure I am not the only one who would want to give back a crisp and curt response to someone we think needs it. I know what the Bible says –

  • Whoever guards His mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles (Prov 21:2).
  • Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him (Prov 29:20).
  • A soft answer turns away wrath (Prov 15:1).

But the instant impulse to respond is something that I need to work on. I need to learn that there isn’t really a need to respond to every statement being made in my presence. I am told this comes with patience and practice.

2. Self-Control in Eating

Should I call food a passion, an obsession, a weakness, or a temptation? I will settle for passion!

I love everything about food – buying the raw ingredients, sorting, cleaning, planning, cooking, trying new recipes, hosting, feeding, serving, feasting, and even cleaning after feasting! In the process of trying new recipes and introducing the recipes to family, friends, and colleagues, I end up overeating.

When I was young, all the mothers loved me because they could rely on me to finish up the last bits of any dish served, so they didn’t have to find small boxes to refrigerate it in. Food will always be cooked in abundance, served in abundance, and eaten in abundance when I am involved. Swiggy and Zomato have made life easy in one way but so difficult in another. Every other afternoon, there is a strong temptation to try something new for lunch with my colleague. Oh, the drowsiness that follows after heavy lunches is so sickening! I have very recently moved from a two ‘tyred’ abdomen to three ‘tyred’ one. I haven’t tested the weighing scales in a long time!

I have realized that my behavior with food is on the brink of gluttony! Prov 23:21 says, "gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags." Verse 2 of the same chapter asks us to put a knife to our throat if we are given to gluttony, which in many ways we already are because of the health risks brought on by overeating. I need self-control in my eating habits not just to be healthier but because I want to glorify God in all that I do (even in eating!)

3. Self-Control in Checking My Phone

This is definitely an obsession! I'm almost OCD in how I keep checking my phone for social media updates, messages, the latest happenings, etc. I have a lot of work to do each day, yet I make time to pick up my phone at least 100 times a day to check for updates. I am sure my time can be put to better use!

We are accountable for our time, and stewardship of time is a valued virtue. The main issue with phone usage is that I have the desire but lack discipline. Here are some ways that I jotted down that I could apply self-control to this habit –

  • Not carry my phone into every room I go into when I am at home (especially the washroom)
  • Disconnect the internet (or put my phone on airplane mode) when I'm not expecting anything important
  • Not keep the phone under my pillow at night, but keep it far, far away!
  • To use a conventional alarm clock to set alarms
  • To delete certain apps from my phone and access them on my laptop if necessary

I am encouraged by what 1 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

With the Holy Spirit in us, we already have the attribute of self-control within us. I just need to exercise the attribute. It is challenging, but "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).


Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

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Deborah Sybil

Deborah loves reading, enjoys cooking and is ready with book/restaurant suggestions for all who ask. She likes travelling and interacting with almost anyone she meets. Nothing interests her as much as the riches of God's word and His work in the present times. She is a professor of Oral Surgery by vocation and lives in Delhi with her husband, Augustine and two adorable sons, Caleb and Bryan.

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2 comments on “My Struggles with Self-Control”

  1. Thank you, Deborah, for highlighting three seemingly benign yet important areas to practice self-control and connecting them to the Word of God. I have benefited from what you've shared, and I'm confident that it will be a source of blessing to others as well.

  2. Well said, Deborah. The book of Proverbs is far harder on the tongue in speech than in eating, though it addresses both, as you noted. I recommend C. S. Lewis and his Screwtape Letters for a treatment of gluttony. It's not always for those of us who eat too much - gluttony can be practiced by those with very trim tummies, too.
    But I'm afraid you've really stepped on some fingers which are agitated when unwrapped from a phone. You have made some excellent suggestions for escaping the glowing slavers. My personal favorite is shifting from phone-based apps to checking them on your PC instead. And banning the intruders from the bedroom - scandalous.

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