Self-Control: The Boundary Between Virtue and Vice
“Did I do that?” the sitcom character Steve Urkel frequently asked in Family Matters (1989-1998). Despite his super intelligence and his intense desire to earn Laura’s love, he proved to be a nuisance. Because he could not control his actions, his good intentions usually resulted in disaster.
“Self-control is the power to control one's actions, impulses, or emotions," according to Merriam-Webster. It adds that toddlers have very little self-control. Therefore, when children grow into young adults, when they become capable of setting goals, and making plans to achieve those goals, they are obligated to grow in self-control.
Friends who decide to date exclusively are expected to set goals. Some are spoken—to know each other better, to travel together to a certain place on a certain date, and so on. Marriage, though not mentioned at the start, may be on the agenda. Here are four features of the relationship which can enhance the relationship; but without self-control can destroy it.
We are encouraged to value our self-worth and not allow anyone to change our opinion of who we are. Each of us is designed with a unique blend of skills and talents for a specific purpose. It is all right to affirm, “I like who I am."
However, individuality gets out of control when we:
- make statements like “This is just the way I am,” instead of explaining our actions;
- intentionally try to change another person into thinking like we do;
- demonstrate insensitivity instead of trying to understand the other person;
- try to manipulate the other person into doing what we want him or her to do.
- become arrogant and hint that we are better than others.
Everyone does not have to be our personality type in order to be lovable. Self-control allows us to respect the other person. We can appreciate who we are while admiring other people.
Kindness is a by-product of love. People who care for each other are expected to offer and accept it. This makes it difficult to explain why caution may be necessary.
Givers give without an ulterior motive. Recipients accept the kindness at face value, without bartering safety and dignity.
In the Purity Circle Workbook, there is a story about a girl named Sandra who thought that kindness was an invitation to be physically intimate. At the end of a four-week summer vacation and the last date with the young man she met, she put her arm around his neck and held his arm around her waist as they walked through the theme park. She tried to sit on his lap as the attendant loaded the roller coaster. She thought she was repaying his kindness and affection; he thought she lacked self-control. She ruined her chances of continuing the friendship.
In the event that a gift seems inappropriate—too extravagant, too personal—refuse it just as kindly as it is presented. Refusal is not disrespect. On the other hand, be very gracious and appreciative on the receipt of a kind gesture.
The more we interact, the more we learn to trust each other. The best proof of trust during dating is the integrity of one's word. Practice self-control instead of just saying what comes to mind. Consider the following questions:
- Wouldn’t it be responsible to say why you cannot make a promise rather than make a promise you doubt you can fulfill?
- Having made a promise, wouldn’t it be honorable to make the effort to see it come true?
- Are you aware that when trust is violated, it is difficult to rebuild?
- Is controlling your tongue, or controlling the desire to make an impression worth the effort to maintain a friendship?
Be the trustworthy friend that you want to have. Inspire trust in the other person, and build your relationship on mutual dependability. Don't say "I love you," if you have doubts; and if you believe that the other person is pretending, say how your feel rather than trust blindly. "Trust, but verify." (Ronald Reagan)
Passion is defined as a strong feeling or emotion or an intense desire. Who wants to be in a passionless relationship? It is exciting to discover that the person you like, likes you. When two lovers see each other, they both feel an electric surge going up and down their spines. They wonder what new thrills would come from abandoning themselves to physical intimacy.
Here is the truth about passion:
- Passion between two people affirms that they are alive and capable of enjoying each other.
- It proves that the testosterone in the male and the estrogen in the female are at healthy levels.
- It provides an opportunity to exercise choice: give in to lustful passion or wait for that special someone who makes a commitment.
- Passion creates urges which cannot always be satisfied, but can always be controlled.
And three final statements about self-control:
- Self-control is the boundary between virtue and vice.
- Self-control teaches patience. "Love is patient" (1 Corinthians 13:4).
- Self-control in dating increases the likelihood of fidelity during marriage.
© 2011 Dora Weithers