This is the conclusion of a “Fruit of the Spirit” series featuring my past perspectives from December 2019 along with my present-day reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro, my first post about love, my second about joy, my third about peace, my fourth about patience, my fifth about kindness, my sixth about goodness, my seventh about faithfulness, my eighth about gentleness, and my final post about self-control below.

Dean from December 2019

If I thought I didn’t want to write about patience, then self-control is even more undesirable.
Why did I do this fruit of the Spirit series again?

I am the worst at self-control. Up front, being honest: I suck at this. I have never been good at self-control.

Moderation is a concept I’ve only gotten into these last several years. Before then, it was all or nothing – or even both at the same time somehow.

I’ve probably been all-or-nothing in every area of my life at some point.

Food? I have wrestled with anorexia and stress-eating.

Alcohol? I have struggled with drunkenness and legalistic sobering.

Friends? I have struggled with codependency and isolation.

Sex? I have struggled with sexual addiction and legalistic purity.

I can’t say that self-control is an area where I’ve learned much. It’s still a struggle every day in so many ways. Even if I contain my actions in some ways, I will fail in others.

Stress-eating is still a common struggle for me. Relationships still trip me up as I look for the balance between dependency and isolation.

My sex life is a subject I won’t publicly talk about in depth – but it has definitely been an area my wife and I have had to work through together.

So, in my sexuality, what does self-control mean? After all, if I can’t even figure out self-control in my day-to-day life, is there any hope of figuring out how my sexuality plays out in self-control?

Here in the end of 2019, should I just give up these self-control efforts?

Good thing self-control won’t come up until the end of my 2020 . . .

Dean in December 2020

I’m glad to tell you I did not give up at the end.

I’m not glad to tell you that I still suck at self-control.

Halfway through this month, I took a vacation. Didn’t go anywhere — just took time away from the office. It was supposed to be a time of relaxing, bonding with family and a few close friends, reading, and playing video games.

Alas, I got in my own way.

Halfway through the month, stuff at church came up involving a COVID-19 exposure, shifting of weekend programs, and my lead volunteer getting caught in the middle.

In a moment’s notice, I was back on the phone and computer, tackling issues and questions with swift action and critical thinking. In that same moment, I had also abandoned my vacation, time with family, and any sort of relaxation.

The next day, I had a conversation with my mentor. I told him about what had happened, and he — from the other side of a video call — shook his head with a smirk and said, “Dean, what were you really saying when you started working again?”

I sat there for a moment and considered it — for the first time. That’s right, I had been so quick to get back to work that I didn’t even think about what I was saying with my decision to end my vacation.

I clicked my tongue and responded, “Well, that I don’t trust my coworkers to handle problems in my absence.”

My mentor nodded, then added, “You also told your wife that your work was more important than your time with her.”

And this is when it hit me.

My issues with self-control go well beyond the typical desires of hunger, attraction, sleep, and so on. It goes into my struggle to pause before acting — at anything.

You see, I act immediately. Whenever anything happens, anyone says anything — I act first.

Now, in my defense, I do think a lot, so sometimes I’ve considered what I would do in certain scenarios.

But I still haven’t stopped to take a moment to consider what actually to do.

I am now learning that self-control isn’t abstaining from some actions or whatnot. Self-control means that you have the strength to choose what you will do.

In my mind, this properly places self-control as the final fruit of the Spirit to attain while also being the one fruit that reinforces all the others.

And, finally, in regards to my sexuality, self-control means being in control of what I do, how I live, and how I identify.

I have a lot more work to do in this area. 2021 is gonna be fun.

Do you struggle with self-control? What does proper self-control look like in your life: sexually, spiritually, or otherwise?

About the Author

  • Dean – thanks for this. I, too, am married, and I, too, tend to jump into action without thinking. This has been one of the more frequent causes of conflict with my wife. She is left feeling unheard, un-empathied (is that a word?), and unimportant. For 12 years of marriage, my attraction towards guys (rarely sexually towards her) and addiction have also left her feeling generally unnoticed and more like my roommate than my wife. I am left scratching my head thinking trying to figure out what I did wrong, thinking that I was just doing what needed to be done for the benefit (usually financially) of the family or fixing what needed to be fixed. Your statement of: I am now learning that self-control isn’t abstaining from some actions or whatnot. Self-control means that you have the strength to choose what you will do. really made me pause. I’m going to have to reflect on this for a while.

  • This is a tough one for sure! Self-control just doesn’t come naturally to most people. I fall into the trap of being a creature of comfort. It’s tough to set aside my own comfort for my faith or for others. But alas, God calls us to come and die. We die to ourselves and live to Him, the ultimate sacrifice of self control.

  • Been eagerly anticipating this fruit and the conclusion of your series, Dean. What a journey you’ve been on this year. Thanks for sharing your insights with us all year long. Will never look at the fruit of the Spirit the same way again! I personally feel like I’ve had a lot of self-control for most of my life, staying away from things I shouldn’t indulge, whether it’s food or substances or sexual things. And 2020 is the year where I’ve realized I don’t have nearly as much self-control as I think I do. It’s been a tough year. It’s been the year to remind me to constantly rely on a power greater than myself. How I long to bring this revelation into next year and beyond.

    • I know what you mean about self-control, Tom. It was a hard month looking at this fruit and seeing how much growth there still is. However, it’s a fruit of the Spirit for a reason — we have to depend upon the Spirit of God to manifest it in us beyond our own ability. Praying God provides the strength for you to grow in this in 2021. And thank you for being on this journey with me! It’s been an eye opening year for sure!

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