The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

Today, we look at the last of the listed Fruit of the Spirit, self-control. This is the only fruit that has two words put together, so two concepts come together to comprise this Fruit. Control refers to power or influence and generally pertains to wielding power or influence over others. There seems to be a perpetual conflict between controlling others or being controlled by them, and so we have a tendency to want to control others and have a difficult time ceding control to others.

Rather than waging a battle between controlling versus being controlled, St. Paul tells us that we are to strive to have self-control. We can’t really control anything but ourselves. So the primary focus of self-control should be control of the SELF.

We can control our actions, our thoughts and our decisions. Most certainly we are influenced by things around us, but the “self” is the key part to self-control.

We are all confronted with negative situations in our lives. Many of them are beyond our control. We can’t control the traffic jam on the highway as an example. We can’t control the crazy boss. We can’t control the difficult co-workers. And many other examples. However, we can control how we react to each of these things. We can control how we meet the negative people and negative situations in our lives. There is certainly a temptation to get angry at situations and people that upset us. Self-control helps us to not have an angry or negative reaction at the situations and people who upset us.

“Gratitude” and “thanksgiving” are not listed as Fruit of the Spirit. However, they factor in to our development of “self-control.” We can choose to be thankful in just about any situation. For instance, when I’m sitting in traffic, I try to feel thankful that I have a car and that I’m not walking. This helps me from getting angry at my situation of sitting in traffic.

The first sin of Adam and Eve was ingratitude. God allowed them to eat of every tree in the garden, except for one, and their desire to partake of that which was forbidden, rather than gratitude for all that they had been given, led them to sin and led to the fall of humanity. Gratitude is, in large measure, the antidote to sin. So, when we have the temptation to be angry or frustrated, meeting this temptation with gratitude is the way we avoid succumbing to it.

The second way to combat anger and frustration is to examine whether the things we are angry or frustrated about will matter in a day, a week or a month. I have to sit in traffic frequently. It’s frustrating at the moment it happens, but even an hour later it has been forgotten. Getting all worked up about something that isn’t going to matter tomorrow is a great reminder not to get all stressed out about everything.

Over the next couple of days, we’ll examine some other aspects of self-control. The point of today’s reflection is that we can’t control anything but ourselves, and so self-control starts with the self. Gaining control of ourselves starts with gratitude.

Lord, thank You for the many positive things I have going on in my life (list some of them). Help me to feel gratitude and to see the positive in the things I am doing today. Help me not to feel anxious or stressed, especially about things that won’t matter tomorrow and things I have no control over. Help me to control my thoughts and emotions today so that they remain positive. Amen.

Have a great, SELF-controlled day!