Self Control: The real
solution to addiction
By Tom Brown
We live in a society that seems whipped.
Everyone appears to be addicted to something. Many professionals
have jumped on the bandwagon and promise solutions to every human
condition--from overeating, to alcohol abuse, to the tobacco
habit, to gambling, to drug addiction, to pornography, and to a host of many other
life-controlling problems. And still, despite all the offered
solutions, countless people are not getting better.
Why aren't many people improving? I believe the
answer is because many of the promised remedies ignore, or at
least do not focus enough on the real solution: THE ADDICTED
PERSON. Yes, the solution to your compulsive behavior is YOU!
What controls you? You can crush those
insurmountable habits that seem to have you in their clutches!
How? Through self-control!
Almost everyone agrees that we need to have
self-control, but few understand how to get it; or they think
that it is not for them.
"I just wasn't born to have
self-control," they often say to themselves. But
self-control is not as difficult to attain than it first appears.
KNOWLEDGE PRODUCES SELF-CONTROL
The Bible has a lot to say about self-control.
One of the main passages that deals with this matter is in
Peter's second epistle. We find these divinely inspired words:
"God's divine power has given us everything [not just some
things, but everything] we need for life and godliness through
our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious
promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine
nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil
desires" (II Peter 1:3,4).
Isn't that what you desire: to escape the
corruption (alcohol abuse, gambling, drug addiction, gluttony,
etc.) in the world caused by evil desires? Sure you do. But how
do you escape these things? The next sentence tells us: "For
this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith
goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge,
self-control..." (v. 5).
The first thing you must do to have
self-control is accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. This makes
you a partaker of God's divine nature. Self-control is God's
attribute. He will give it to those who are born again.
But self-control is not given at
conversion--only faith is. After you are born again, you must add
to your new faith all the virtues of God's divine nature:
goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness,
brotherly kindness and love.
Please notice that the Apostle Peter does not
give us a haphazard list of virtues we should possess; instead,
he gives us a progressive list of Christian qualities
that produce continuous growth.
Look carefully at the list and notice how each
virtue gives birth to another--each in its respective order.
The first fruit we have as Christians is faith.
Without it you can't be saved. Yet, you can be saved without the
other fruits. So the first virtue we receive is faith. The list
begins with faith and ends with the highest virtue of all--love!
In the midst of this list Peter says,
"...and to knowledge, [add] self-control..." Knowledge
creates self-control. So how do you get self-control? You get it
KNOWING THE TRUTH SETS YOU FREE
Knowledge is a prerequisite for self-control.
If knowledge is essential in order to have self-control, then the
opposite of knowledge--lack of it--destroys self-control. Lack of
knowledge is simply believing in false information.
Jesus says, "Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). What sets you
free? Knowing the truth does. Not simply the truth, but knowing
the truth liberates you.
The opposite is also true: Lies keep you bound.
Jesus calls Satan the "father of lies." Satan will lie
to us so that we stay bound in sin and hurtful habits.
James says that if we speak lies to ourselves,
our bodies become uncontrollable. "We all stumble in many
ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a
perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check" (James
3:2). Wouldn't you like to keep your body under control? James
tells us that the man who always speaks the truth is always in
control of himself--in other words, he is self-controlled.
When we speak lies to ourselves, we lose
control over our lives. Many people are lying to themselves; this
results in losing self-control.
These lies come in the form of wrong beliefs.
Wrong beliefs are lies we injure ourselves with. These lies must
be replaced with the truth.
LIES WE BELIEVE
Here is what I mean:
One of the main lies we tell ourselves in order
to avoid exercising self-control is this: Since I've failed
before, I'll always fail.
Yet experience tells us that most people who
have overcome a hurtful habit tried many times to break the
habit, and failed many times. Most ex-cigarette smokers prove
this is true. Most have tried many times to give up
cigarettes...yet to no avail. Finally they gave it up,
permanently. But failing in the past does not mean you will fail
in the future!
Another common lie we believe which halts
self-controls is this: I'm only hurting myself.
Those who believe this lie have never been
counselors. I have counseled dozens of wives who were heart-torn
over their wrecked marriages, their lives in shambles because
their intoxicated husbands wouldn't stop the booze. Their flood
of tears testify to the fact that sin hurts not just the
offenders, but everyone around them.
People believe this lie to avoid feeling guilt
about their actions. But the truth is, the damage that sin
produces is not restricted to the sinner alone. Others get hurt
in the process.
Here is the ultimate lie we swallow that stops
us from practicing self-control: I can't deny myself.
Jesus says, "If anyone would come after
me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow
me" (Matthew 16:24).
Jesus believes that you can deny yourself. If
He didn't, He would be unfair in demanding self-denial.
"But you don't understand my situation. My
temptation is more than I can handle! I can't handle the
Yet God says, "No temptation has seized
you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will
not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear" (1
Corinthians 10:13). God never lets you be tempted beyond what you
The truth is, some people don't want to endure
the temptation, but they can if they choose to. You can say
"no" to yourself. It is not the end of all things if
you have to suffer the pain of self-denial. You can stand it. You
Do you like ice cream? Good, I got your
"Yes," you may say, "I love ice
cream. That's my weakness. I can not say "no" to ice
"Yes you can!"
"Oh, no I can't. I love it too much."
I'm going to prove that you can say
"no" to ice cream.
Imagine yourself inside the largest ice cream
parlor in the world. They have every conceivable flavor
available--more than your highest fantasy. The clerk behind the
counter asks you, "What would you like? Name it and I'll
make it for you." You tell him and he makes the largest,
creamiest ice cream delight that you have ever seen. He hands it
to you along with a large spoon.
Now, here's my question: Can you put down that
"Oh, no! I can't!"
Okay. Let's add something else to the story. As
you are about to heap a spoonful into your mouth, you hear a
click. You feel a cold, metal object touch your head. Out of the
corner of your left eye, you catch a glimpse of a large, hairy
hand holding a gun to your temple. A deep voice swears, "If
you eat that ice cream, I'll blow your head off!"
Now, let me ask that question again: Can you
put down that ice cream? I think you see the point. You can say
"no" if you know the consequences.
The consequence of sin is death. Sin destroys
It is not easy to deny yourself, but for the
sake of having a higher, more noble life, it is necessary. Most
of the time, you will find that gaining something valuable in
your life will depend on being willing to tolerate distress,
discomfort, and discontent. This is what Paul means when he says,
"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that
suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and
character, hope" (Romans 5:3).
Resisting temptation is worth it!
THE STAGE IS SET
The truth is, self-control is a choice. You
choose what your life is going to be.
"You're wrong," you may argue.
"I didn't choose to be an alcoholic. It's not my fault that
I grew up with alcoholic parents. If I hadn't had them as
parents, I wouldn't be an alcoholic today."
Please, don't confuse what they did with what
you are doing. They are responsible for their lives, but you are
responsible for yours.
Life is like a stage play. You come on the
scene with the stage already set. You did not choose the setting.
You did not choose the abusive parents you have. You did not
select the teachers at school who ridiculed you. You did not
appoint the peers that teased you. Nor did you desire a spouse to
cheat on you. No! You did not pick the stage props. They were
here when you came; or, they were changed without your consent.
But, friend, God comes to you with a blank
piece of paper in His hands. He hands it to you along with a pen.
Then He says to you, "The stage is already set...but you
write the script. You choose what your character will do in this
real-life play. You decide how your character will react to the
alcoholic parents you have."
In your life's drama, you determine how you
will respond to the ridiculing teachers and the teasing peers.
You determine what you are going to do after your spouse left you
for another person. Are you going to wallow in self-pity and
drown your sorrows in the bottle or gorge yourself with food? Or
will you forgive and make your life better? The choice is yours. You—and YOU
ALONE—can write the script!"
Friend, the script is in your hands. You're the
author. What will you write?
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