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Exercising the muscle of self-control


I just ate a whole Terry's Chocolate Orange. I tried not to eat the whole thing but, as I took a segment away another one fell down in its place, and it just lay there ready to be consumed. My goodness I love that chocolate. In fact, I love all chocolate, and find it very hard to limit the amount I eat in one sitting. In my head I’ll think ‘just four squares’ and, half an hour later, I’ll find myself putting the wrapper in the bin because the WHOLE bar has been eaten, and we’re talking about a big bar.

When it comes to the sweet stuff, I’ve not got too much self-control, and it’s something that I know I need to work on. Chocolate in itself isn’t bad, it tastes really good but I know that too much sugar isn’t good for me. There are many things that might feel good, but actually aren’t good for us, and that’s when we need to exercise our self-control muscles.

What are the things you do, or consume, that aren’t healthy for you? Is it food? Porn? Unhealthy images on social media? Or maybe it’s something like online shopping that you know you need to be more self-controlled with. Changing these behaviours is something that should be a priority because you’re precious, and it’s really important that you continue to learn how to look after your body and mind.

And that’s it… a learning curve. Imagine this – you’re a dot on a piece of paper, if you keep moving forwards as you are you’ll draw a straight line upwards, but we don’t want to go up there. Up ahead are the same old unhealthy behaviours, bad choices and often feelings of shame and pain. So, we need a learning curve, curving off this page in a new direction and that’s a choice you have to make. Beginning the curve takes self-control, and a whole lot of determination.

So how do we do that? How do we exercise the muscle of self-control?

Have a plan
It’s helpful to have a plan to help you overcome the temptation in the moment that the thought arises. Take a moment to note down the areas that you need to have more self-control with and the situations that often trigger that behaviour. Once you know what’s triggering that urge, make some decisions about how you’re going to change that. What healthy distractions can you engage in during that moment? For example, I know when it’s about 10pm I usually end up shopping online, often for things I really don’t need. I know it’s not helpful for me to be on my phone late into the evening so I need to make some new choices about how I spend my time and decide what distractions I can turn to if the temptation to shop arises!

Removing temptation
It may be the right decision to remove the temptation completely if distractions don’t work. For example, unsubscribing/unfollowing if you’re regularly consuming images or messages that you know aren’t healthy or helpful. If you’re tempted to look at explicit images online immediately turning your phone off and putting it down removes the ability to go any further. Or perhaps you need to make a choice about the people that you spend time with.

Tracking your progress
It can be really great to see how far you’ve come with tackling the temptations, keep a notebook and write down your progress. Write down the highs and lows, the important thing is to become more aware of those things that we need to change within ourselves, rather than them being secretive and causing us shame. There will be days when you do really well, and other days when you might give in to the urges, but turn the page and try again, day by day you’re making progress.

Have an accountability partner. Share with a friend about those things that you want to change and have more self-control with. Ask them if they wouldn’t mind asking you about your progress every now and again.

One of the things that I do is ask God to help with me when I’m struggling to have self-control. He cares about how we spend our time, our money, and how we treat our bodies. We’re not alone in our struggles, He offers us help, peace and forgiveness.

I know that my sugar consumption needs to be addressed, I need to take better care of my body because it’s the only one I have and I’m the only one that can make that decision. What do you need to be self-controlled in? Look after your heart, your mind and your body, guard it – it’s special and precious and wonderful. Make the decision today to start the curve away from patterns of behaviour that aren’t good or healthy.


Photo by Lucian Alexe.

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