“The fruitage of the spirit is . . . self-control.”—GALATIANS 5:22, 23.
1, 2. (a) What can result from a lack of self-control? (b) Why do we need to discuss the subject of self-control?
SELF-CONTROL is a quality that Jehovah God can help us to cultivate. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Jehovah has perfect self-control. However, we do not because we are imperfect. Actually, a lack of self-control is responsible for many of the problems people have today. It may cause a person to delay doing things that are important or cause him to perform poorly at school or at work. A lack of self-control may also lead to verbal abuse, drunkenness, violence, divorce, unnecessary debt, addiction, time in jail, emotional pain, sexually transmitted disease, and unwanted pregnancy.—Psalm 34:11-14.
2 People who do not have self-control cause problems for themselves and for others. And as time goes by, it is clear that people have less and less self-control. This should not surprise us, though, because God’s Word foretold that a lack of self-control would be one proof that we are living in “the last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1-3.
3. Why do we need self-control?
3 Why do we need self-control? There are two important reasons. First, people who can control their feelings and emotions generally have fewer problems. It is also easier for them to have wholesome relationships and to avoid feeling angry, anxious, or depressed. Second, to remain God’s friends, we need to resist temptation and control wrong desires. That is what Adam and Eve failed to do. (Genesis 3:6) Like them, many people today have terrible problems because they do not have self-control.
4. What should be encouraging to any who are struggling to control their wrong desires?
4 Jehovah understands that we are imperfect and that it is difficult for us to have self-control. But he wants to help us dominate our wrong desires. (1 Kings 8:46-50) As a loving Friend, he kindly encourages those who sometimes find it difficult to control their feelings and desires. In this article, we will learn from Jehovah’s example of self-control. We will also discuss examples from the Bible, both good and bad, and review practical suggestions that can help us.
JEHOVAH SETS THE EXAMPLE
5, 6. What example of self-control does Jehovah set for us?
5 Jehovah’s self-control is perfect because he is perfect in every way. (Deuteronomy 32:4) We, however, are imperfect. But we still need to examine his example of self-control so that we can better imitate him. This will help us to know how to react in the right way when things happen that could upset us. What are some examples of Jehovah’s self-control?
Jehovah’s self-control is perfect because he is perfect in every way
6 Think about how Jehovah reacted when Satan rebelled in Eden. Likely, the Devil’s claim caused all of God’s loyal servants in heaven to feel shock, anger, and contempt. Maybe you feel the same way when you think about all the suffering Satan has caused. But Jehovah did not overreact. He responded in just the right way. Jehovah has been slow to anger and fair in dealing with Satan’s rebellion. (Exodus 34:6; Job 2:2-6) Why? Jehovah has allowed time to pass because he does not want anyone to be destroyed but “desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 Peter 3:9.
7. What can we learn from Jehovah’s example?
7 Jehovah’s example teaches us that we need to think carefully before we speak and not react too quickly. So when you need to make an important decision, give yourself time to think. Pray for wisdom to say or do the right thing. (Psalm 141:3) When we are angry or upset, it is very easy to overreact. And that is why many have come to regret things they said or did without thinking!—Proverbs 14:29; 15:28; 19:2.
GOOD AND BAD EXAMPLES AMONG GOD’S SERVANTS
8. (a) Where can we find good examples of self-control? (b) What helped Joseph to resist temptation when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him? (See opening picture.)
8 What Bible examples highlight the value of self-control? One you may think of is Jacob’s son Joseph. He resisted temptation when he was serving in the house of Potiphar, the chief of Pharaoh’s guards. Potiphar’s wife found Joseph attractive because he was “well-built and handsome,” and she tried to seduce him several times. What helped Joseph to resist temptation? He probably took time to think carefully in advance about what would happen if he were to give in to her. Then, when she grabbed him by his clothes, he ran away from her. He said: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?”—Genesis 39:6, 9; read Proverbs 1:10.
Ask Jehovah to give you the wisdom and self-control to resist temptation
9. How can you prepare yourself to resist temptations?
9 What do we learn from Joseph’s example? If we are tempted to break one of God’s laws, we need to resist the temptation. Before becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses, some struggled with overeating, heavy drinking, smoking, drug abuse, sexual immorality, or other problems. Even after baptism, they may at times be tempted by those things. If this happens to you, stop and think about how your relationship with Jehovah would be damaged if you gave in to the temptation. You can try to identify situations that might be tempting for you and decide how you can avoid them. (Psalm 26:4, 5; Proverbs 22:3) If you are ever tested like that, ask Jehovah to give you the wisdom and self-control to resist the temptation.
10, 11. (a) What happens to many young ones at school? (b) What can help young Christians to resist the temptation to break God’s laws?
10 Something similar to what happened to Joseph happens to many young Christians today. One example is Kim. Her classmates would often brag about having sex over the weekend. Kim did not have any stories like that to tell. She admits that being different made her feel “abandoned and alone” at times and that her classmates thought that she was stupid because she did not date. But Kim was actually wise. She knew that the temptation to have sex can be very strong when we are young. (2 Timothy 2:22) Other students would often ask whether she was still a virgin. That gave her the opportunity to explain why she chose not to have sex. We are proud of young Christians who are determined to resist pressure to be sexually immoral, and Jehovah is proud of them too!
11 The Bible also gives us examples of people who did not resist the temptation to be sexually immoral. And it shows the bad results when we do not have self-control. If you are in a situation similar to Kim’s, think about the foolish young man described in Proverbs chapter 7. Think, too, about Amnon and the terrible results of his behavior. (2 Samuel 13:1, 2, 10-15, 28-32) Parents can help their children to develop self-control and wisdom by discussing those examples during family worship.
12. (a) How did Joseph control his feelings toward his brothers? (b) In what situations do we have to control our feelings?
12 On another occasion, Joseph again set a good example of self-control. This was when his brothers came to Egypt to buy food. To understand what they were really thinking, Joseph did not tell them that he was their brother. And when his feelings became very intense, he left his brothers so that he could cry in private. (Genesis 43:30, 31; 45:1) If a brother or a sister does something that upsets you, imitating Joseph’s example of self-control will help you to avoid saying or doing something you might later regret. (Proverbs 16:32; 17:27) Or maybe you have disfellowshipped relatives. If so, you will need to control your feelings in order to avoid unnecessary contact with them. This can be difficult to do. But it will be easier if you remember that you are imitating Jehovah’s example and doing what he commands.
No one should be overconfident, thinking that he will never give in to temptation
13. What lessons can we learn from events in King David’s life?
13 We also benefit from King David’s example. When Saul and Shimei provoked him, David did not get angry or use his power against them. (1 Samuel 26:9-11; 2 Samuel 16:5-10) Yet, David did not always have self-control. We know this from reading about his sin with Bath-sheba and his reaction to Nabal’s greed. (1 Samuel 25:10-13; 2 Samuel 11:2-4) We can learn valuable lessons from David. First, overseers among God’s people especially need self-control so that they do not misuse their authority. Second, no one should be overconfident, thinking that he will never give in to temptation.—1 Corinthians 10:12.
PRACTICAL THINGS YOU CAN DO
14. What experience did one brother have, and why are our reactions in similar situations important?
14 What can you do to improve your self-control? Consider what happened to Luigi. A vehicle hit the back of his car. Even though the other driver caused the accident, that driver began yelling at Luigi and tried to start a fight. Luigi prayed to Jehovah to remain calm and tried to calm the other driver. But the man continued to yell. So Luigi wrote the man’s insurance details down and left while the man was still shouting. A week later, Luigi was making a return visit on a woman. Her husband was the other driver! The man was embarrassed and apologized for his bad behavior. He offered to contact Luigi’s insurance company so that Luigi could get his car fixed sooner. The man joined the Bible discussion and really enjoyed it. Because of this, Luigi realized how important it was that he had remained calm after the accident and how devastating the results could have been if he had become angry.—Read 2 Corinthians 6:3, 4.
15, 16. How can Bible study help you and your family to develop self-control?
15 Regular and meaningful Bible study can help Christians to develop self-control. Remember what God told Joshua: “This book of the Law should not depart from your mouth, and you must read it in an undertone day and night, in order to observe carefully all that is written in it; for then your way will be successful and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:8) But how can Bible study help you to develop, or cultivate, self-control?
Regular Bible study can help you to develop self-control
16 We have learned that the Bible contains examples that show how we benefit when we have self-control and how we suffer when we do not. Jehovah had these examples written down for a reason. (Romans 15:4) It would be wise for us to read, study, and think carefully about them. Try to understand how they apply to you and your family. Ask Jehovah to help you to apply the counsel from his Word. If you realize that you lack self-control in some area, admit it. Then pray about it, and work hard to see how you can improve. (James 1:5) Do research in our publications to find practical advice that can help you.
17. In what ways can parents help their children to develop self-control?
17 How can you help your children to develop self-control? Parents know that their children were not born with this quality. So they need to teach their children good qualities by their own example. (Ephesians 6:4) If you see that your children are lacking self-control, ask yourself whether you are setting a good example. You can set a good example by being regular in the ministry, in attending meetings, and in conducting family worship. And do not be afraid to say no to your children when necessary! Jehovah set limits for Adam and Eve. Those limits could have helped them to learn respect for Jehovah’s authority. In a similar way, when parents discipline their children and set a good example for them, it can teach children self-control. Love for God’s authority and respect for his standards are some of the most valuable things that you can help your children to have.—Read Proverbs 1:5, 7, 8.
18. Why do we need to choose our friends wisely?
18 Whether we are parents or not, all of us should choose our friends wisely. If your friends love Jehovah, they will encourage you to set meaningful goals and avoid trouble. (Proverbs 13:20) Their good example will motivate you to imitate their self-control. And no doubt your good conduct will encourage them as well. The self-control we will gain will help us to have God’s approval, enjoy our life, and share good things with those we love.