Self-control is the strength of character whereby through firmness we rule ourselves in well-doing. Let us consider the three main parts of this definition: (1) strength of character is the heart of self-control; (2) this strength of character displays itself in firmness, resoluteness of will, strongly fixed in the direction of one’s determination; and (3) self-control is determined to rule ourselves in well-doing, in good.
Perversion and Opposites of Self-Control
Stubbornness is a perversion of self-control, which rules one along the lines of evil doing. Stubbornness does not listen to reason, argument or proper principles, but is fixed in its wrong way. Firmness, when developed in the direction of evil, makes one stubborn; but when developed in good, gives us self-control.
Irresoluteness and impulsiveness are the opposites of self-control. Some people often cannot make up their minds on things that they should be able to decide on. They often do not know what to do, so when a decision is needed, they lack determination, resoluteness. Then, there are people who yield too quickly to influences operating on them, and exhibit impulsiveness. In proportion as either of these qualities rules one, in that proportion he is lacking in self-control.
Proverbs 25: 28 examined
Proverbs 25: 28 reads, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” The word “spirit” here means the spirit of the human mind, and is equivalent to saying, He that hath no rule over his own mind, his thoughts, his disposition, is like a city that is broken down and without walls.
In olden times, when there was little police protection and marauders were numerous, cities needed to be surrounded by strong, high walls as protection. Any city with broken-down walls invited attack and was certain to eventually meet with disaster.
Solomon likens such a city to a broken-down human will. The will needs to be continually on guard over the mind and to allow nothing to enter except through the gates – Conscience and Judgment. These gates need to be watched closely, so that they admit only such thoughts as would be non-injurious, profitable, wise – in harmony with God’s Word.
There is a difference between a will and a wish. Some wish to have good health, but do not have the will to try to get it. Some wish to arise at a certain hour in the morning; but the wish does not get them up because the will is broken down. One may know that a certain food disagrees with him, but he does not have the will to resist eating it.
Indecision and lack of self-control in little things affect all the greater things in life. The person who gets up irregularly is apt to be irregular in business. The person who cannot determine what he should eat is likely to be weak in all his decisions. Such a one will likely let some salesman influence him unduly as to what he will buy.
Let us think of the individual as having three departments of government – the legislative, the Conscience; the judicial, the Judgment; and the executive, the Will. The Will governs; but if the Will is weak, the government is slack, and the appetites, passions and unholy ambitions take advantage of the situation. They seek to overbalance Judgment and to silence Conscience, and clamor to the Will to have their own way. Such a government is unstable, and the soul’s condition is one of anarchy. How important, therefore, is the Will that is entirely consecrated to God and righteousness, strengthened in the Lord, assisted by Conscience and Judgment, in determining the good and acceptable and perfect will of God as expressed in His Word (Romans 12: 2)!
Let us also think of our dispositions as a city, our good qualities to the homes, our good thoughts to the soldiers defending the city and self-control to the city’s wall. Outside are sin, error, selfishness and worldliness, as soldiers under Satan, their general, and the flesh and the world, his lieutenants. These chiefly assault our self-control, which breaking down, destroy every good thought and quality. Our chief concern is to prevent a breach in the wall of self-control. So doing, we will prove victors in our defensive warfare, preserving our symbolic city from ruin.