It’s popular in present times to eradicate a bad habit with a good or better one. That’s certainly the spin popular psychology puts on it. But this viewpoint is not exactly biblical, or at least it’s biblically true that the sacrifice of self control — the ability to hold to a negative without a replacement positive — is available to the Spirit-filled individual.
Self control cannot be helped much by replacement positives. This is why the ‘one day at a time’ approach works. Negation works that way; via self discipline.
But it does help to have some forward focus.
Living in a Time with So Much to Say ‘No’ To
These are extravagant times, what with the mod cons and the typical Western resources available to us. There’s so much we’re tempted to say ‘yes’ to, including bulging credit.
It’s the battle against the competing noise of life, when such noise always promises much appeal, yet actually delivers only frustration, disconsolation and eventual fatigue.
We know it’s best to ‘be still’ and more tranquil in life, but how is that achieved when there are so many necessary and optional distractions about us?
These are tests of our desires on the one hand and of our diligence on the other.
The desires, ideally, we control and are able to say ‘no’ to. But there are things we shouldn’t say ‘no’ to — like packing school lunches for the kids or befriending a struggling neighbour. Knowing the difference between the necessary and the optional — and, importantly, acting congruently — is wisdom.
The Fight Between Human Psychology and the Truth of the Flesh
Our humanity always has us trying to put a positive slant on things.
Whilst there’s the positive virtue — the fruit of the Spirit, for instance — with which to attach over the realm of flesh-ridden vice that clings, this doesn’t help as much for matters of bad habit, dependence or addiction.
Food is a very common example.
Sticking to a ‘healthy diet’ is a significant and ongoing conquest for many; it’s a serious battle for many, many people. Without the will to say ‘no’ — or to otherwise eat better food, albeit in smaller portions — we’re forlorn.
Another example is control over speech. The base extravert may battle with their tongue. They face internal recriminations for a loose tongue, wanting desperately to be more introverted in nature.
The only way to deal with the above two problems of desire is to pray about, and focus upon, limiting excursions from God’s ordered will as it’s discerned personally.
Focus will do it; one consciously focused moment at a time.
Making resolutions and keeping them by saying one ‘no’ at a time to ourselves is a sound basis for self control. It’s not helped any better than via the honesty of accountability for the self. Indeed, only after a few strong ‘no’s’ will we derive the power of cogent resolve. Then we’re on our way; it’s easier from there.
We can achieve greater self control one ‘no’ at a time.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.