I think we'd all admit to times when self-control just flies out the window and something akin to no control at all takes over. You know what I mean - the best of intentions exist at the beginning of the day, but as the day wanes on and your "self-control" dial slowly edges back toward zero and suddenly you find the ability to resist whatever it is you are trying to apply self-control to is just null and void. Those moments happen to the best of us - not because we lacked self-control, but because we just somehow "leaked" all our self-control right out of us! At the moment we need it most - it is gone. At the moment when it would make all the difference in the world, it is like finding a spatula to scrape the tiniest fragment of mayo out of the jar because we are desperate for a sandwich! The moment we realize we are on "zero" as it comes to our "self-control reserve", we panic and see ourselves plummeting head-long into stuff we know better than to cross over into. So, if we want to avoid "zero", we need a plan to have better "reserves"!
Losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall. (Proverbs 25:28 CEV)
Self-control is something we "put in reserve" in our lives through a couple of different means. The first is through study of what scripture has to say about whatever it is we are wanting to "build a reserve" against. For example, if we are struggling with being critical in our conversations, we might want to consider what scripture teaches about guarding our tongue, how a spark catches a whole forest on fire, and what it means to speak love in truth. When we explore what scripture has to say, we need to do more than just familiarize ourselves with what it says. The next step is to actually begin to find ways to apply what it is we find to be truth we need to practice. Application is just another fancy word used to describe the process of practicing whatever it is we are working on applying. In terms of the words we choose, we might make more conscious decisions to remain quiet (like when we are tempted to point out how "wrong" someone is), or to speak words of love rather than harsher words of criticism. Are we being a little two-faced when we do this? Not really. We are simply learning to apply truth - in time, truth will govern our thoughts and our responses will come easier. In the meantime, we practice, practice, practice. We don't develop reserves without this type of practice!
The second means of developing and maintaining a little self-control is through accountability. When we try and fail, time and time again, we could benefit from having someone else be aware of what it is we are working on changing in our lives. If I travel this road with someone who is right at the same level as I am with my self-control issues, I won't actually have much of an accountability partner. If I choose to travel this road with someone who has a little more reserve built up in that particular area, I find myself being able to draw from what it is they have already learned. Herein is the benefit of developing accountable relationships. I am not talking about the kind where you run every move you make through another person to see if it is "okay" to do it or not. I am speaking of the kind of relationships where we are comfortable "calling each other out" when we see or hear things which we know is contrary to the way we want to be walking. This takes a lot of courage - to partner with others in this way requires a huge amount of vulnerability - we open ourselves up and this can be uncomfortable. I don't know about you, but whenever I have needed to build my "self-control reserve", I don't usually do so well on my own! What I need is another to help me see where I am leaking!
The third means of building our self-control "reserves" is to actually talk with God about it. I don't think we do this enough. Sure, we "explain" to God where we "went wrong" - we call that confession. But...do we actually stop long enough to hear what he is speaking to our hearts in those minutes when we actually get quiet enough to listen? Probably not. If we did this a little more - rather than just "talking to God", we might find we get the impression of little areas of opportunity where we could have "saved" a little reserve if we never traveled down the road in the first place! We find where it is we "trip up" and we can adjust our journey as a result. We may not solve this problem of "reserve leakage" right away, but through consistent and committed use of these three principles, we might just find our reserve being increased and the leakage slowing down! Just sayin!