The exercise of this discipline called self-control prevents desire from becoming a dictator. For the person without Christ, the desires dictate and he or she obeys. Those in Christ, living under the authority of His Spirit and ruled by Him, are able to defy this once-powerful dictator. As a result, we experience a transforming change that others notice.
As for the tongue, we exercise verbal restraint. Where our diet is concerned, we exercise restraint at the dinner table. (And I leave the ice cream in the freezer!) Pertaining to the temper, we exercise emotional restraint. As it relates to our thoughts, we exercise mental restraint. In terms of sexual lust, we exercise moral restraint. All of us have areas that tempt us more than others, so we must give ourselves over to the Spirit’s authority. He steps in and empowers us to hold back before we take steps to satisfy our impulse or our desire.
Let’s get practical. I have found that a three-second pause can make all the difference. Just as an impulse hits me, I decide to wait just three seconds before taking any action. During that pause, I do a quick assessment of what the consequences might be. Would this action be something that I would be embarrassed about later? Not all impulses are bad; some are good. Those three seconds have kept me out of a lot of hot water over the years.*
A Note from Colleen: Pausing instead of reacting is one of the initial steps of living an authentic life. I’ve referred to this process as “becoming real” in my blog. In difficult situations, instead of responding quickly, pause a few moments in order to consider choosing a different, better response. During this pause, recall what “becoming real” looks like, and offer a genuine reply.
*Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, The Strength of Character: 7 Essential Traits of a Remarkable Life (Nashville: J. Countryman, 2007), 34-35. Copyright © 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.