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How Christians Can Strive for Self-Control

Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.

Our self-control is tested every day in many ways.

Our self-control is tested every day in many ways.

“I can’t resist the dessert table.
I will go on a diet tomorrow.”
“Wow, that woman looks so good. I am going to make my move.”
“I spent way too much on my last shopping trip.”
“I can’t wait to share this latest bit of gossip.”
“I will tell that person off for what they did to me.”

The statements above are excuses we may use to give in to our desires and appetites. We live in a world that encourages us to give in to temptations, even though doing so is harmful in the end.

Some people scoff at the idea of restraint and denying themselves anything. They may even pressure us to indulge. Many individuals value their pleasure so much that they do not think about the potential negative consequences of their actions.

We Christians face challenging situations where we must choose between self-control and indulging our desires and impulses. God teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions and live self-disciplined, upright, and godly lives (Titus 2:11-13). Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and something Christians should aspire to achieve (Galatians 5:22-23).

Giving in to our impulses can make us physically and mentally sick and hurt the people we love. We are as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls (Proverbs 25:28). Living disciplined lives is challenging because we must put off or deny ourselves things we want. However, the effort is worth it. It is better to be a patient person than a warrior and one with self-control than one who takes a city (Proverbs 15:32).

We need to control our minds and emotions.

We need to control our minds and emotions.

Areas We Need to Exercise Self-Control

There are several areas in our lives where we need to discipline ourselves.

Controlling our Minds

We must take our thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). So what does that look like? Our human nature tempts us to pursue our lusts and fulfill our desires.

Temptation can lead us to sin if we let it. Mindfulness and pursuing wisdom can keep us out of trouble (Proverbs 10:13). When someone hurts us, our natural response is to seek revenge. God tells us to let go of these desires and assures us that He is our avenger (Romans 12:19).

We may need to avoid some people who will influence us to do the wrong thing. Our old deceitful desires should be put behind us so we can create a new self that reflects God’s righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Controlling Our Emotions

Emotions such as anger and fear can overcome us and get us into trouble. Anger stirs up arguments and strife (Proverbs 30:33). We will be tempted to lash out against people who harmed us. Letting go of rage and forgiving people who hurt us helps us maintain control over ourselves.

Fear can drive us to make poor decisions. However, love and the Holy Spirit can be our guide out of it (John 4:18).

Controlling Our Tongues

We should not underestimate the power of the tongue. It has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). Our speech can spark a fire that is not easy to put out (James 3:6). The flames destroy everything in its path. We need to discern when it is appropriate to be silent, give a soft answer, or confront others.

When we hear a juicy bit of gossip, our first reaction is to share it with someone and revel in the details. However, we should strive to be trustworthy and keep other people’s secrets. Spreading rumors can destroy relationships, break up marriages, ruin people’s reputations, and do other harmful things.

Our words can also help other people heal. A soothing tongue can be a tree of life (Proverbs 15:4). Our lips should nourish people and encourage others (Proverbs 10:21, 12:28).

Controlling our Bodies

We should be mindful about how we treat our bodies. Our bodies are meant to be used in holy and honorable ways (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). We must flee immorality and honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6: 18-20). Our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:12-13, Colossians 3:5).

Strategies That Help Us Develop Self-Control

Seeking Support

Some 12-step programs such as AA and Celebrate Recovery teach that part of the first steps to healing are admitting that we are powerless over the addictions and compulsive behaviors that make our lives unmanageable. We acknowledge that we need a higher power to help us restore us to sanity and take back control over our lives.

Close friends, spiritual leaders, and mentors can encourage us to make the right decisions and celebrate our successes. They also hold us accountable when we stumble.

Specialized organizations and ministries can help us manage our destructive behavior through regular meetings and small groups. In some cases, we can reach out to pastors and other medical or psychological professionals for help.

Books such as The Celebrate Recovery 365 Daily Devotional also encourage us to seek the right path. This excellent book by John Baker, Johnny Baker, and Mac Owen offers inspiring daily stories that provide hope for the future. The Bible has wise instructions on many of the perplexities of life, especially Proverbs. Seeking wise counsel can help us avoid any pitfalls.

Other Methods To Help Us Regain Control

Disciplining Ourselves

  • Taking our thoughts captive to Christ and renewing our minds (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • Facing and processing negative emotions.
  • Thinking things through before acting.
  • Saying “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:11-12).
  • Becoming self-disciplined, especially when dealing with issues such as alcohol consumption and overeating.
  • Setting goals and putting plans into place about how we will achieve them.
  • Prayer: God will help us when we face challenges.
  • Studying the Bible regularly; there is much wisdom there.
  • Recognizing our mistakes, sins, and weaknesses and learning from them.
  • Celebrating our successes.

Managing Our Relationships

  • Forgiveness: Pardoning others releases us from negative emotions that prompt us to make rash, potentially damaging decisions.
  • Avoiding people and situations that trigger us to do the wrong thing, if possible.
  • Setting boundaries with individuals or avoiding those who try to sabotage our recovery.
Self-control means we make good choices.\

Self-control means we make good choices.\

Concluding Thoughts

Self-control is difficult because it goes against human nature. We must examine ourselves to expose the areas that need work. Managing our words and behavior have many benefits such as healthier relationships and happy marriages. Self-discipline keeps us out of trouble.

The Apostle Paul compared living the Christian life to running a race. Athletes must train their bodies and be self-controlled to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1). It is better to have self-control than to be a warrior who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32).

Paul taught us to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love to self-discipline (2 Peter 1:5-7). Sometimes, we may fail, but God will help us try again to control our passions (Phil 4:13).


The Holy Bible, New International Version
Living Out the Message of Christ, Celebrate Recovery Participants Guide, Book 8

© 2022 Carola Finch