Why is self-control so hard?

I chew gum even though it flares up my TMJ (messes up my jaw and gives me headaches).  I’ll say I won’t do it again, but the next time there’s a slice of gum around . . I just might.

I eat zucchini even though it makes me sick.  Yuck sick.  But it tastes so, well, tasty grilled up . . that I eat it to “test whether it really, really does bother me”.

We all do it.  Things that just plain don’t make sense.  Bulls get mad and charge right at swords.  We lose our self-control and charge right at the thing that hurts us, too.

We all do it.  But WHY do we do it?  Why do we do things that hurt us?  Why is it so hard to lose 5 pounds, stop eating candy, arrive at church on time, workout 10 minutes in the gym, switch to gluten-free, take only the allocated lunch break at work–whatever it is, why is it so hard?


We don’t have much of it.

(When we don’t have to.)

I remember an example from a book many years ago.  The author pointed out how people often feel the uncontrollable urge to cuss and scream someone out who makes a traffic violation.

But these same people, if they got out of their car after a fender-bender and saw a 7′ 6″ tall linebacker step out of his car . . would suddenly remember their manners and be very polite.

Most of us aren’t so out of control that we can’t do what’s good for us when we absolutely have to–that is, most of us don’t want to face immediate unpleasant consequences.

But if there aren’t immediate miserable consequences, if the consequences are delayed even a teenie bit or might not happen at all . .

{Where’s my gum and serve up the zucchini.}

That’s what happens to us.

It’s why people still smoke.  There’s years of delay to lung problems for most.  It’s why people still speed.  They might not get caught, and they probably won’t get in an accident.  It’s why we do all the crazy things we do and think we can get away with it, or just want what we want badly enough that we take the temporary gratification even knowing the long-run disaster.

Why do we do it?

Well, this fact isn’t Self-Esteem 101, but the Bible tells us we’re sinners.  But what is uplifting is that we don’t always have to have one more piece of chocolate.  We don’t have to buy another pair of shoes or cheat on a test one more time or toss in one more poker chip or have one more dating sleepover.  We really, really, really can stop.

Not on our own, though.

Do I have the power to resist the gum that causes me headaches and the zucchini that causes me nausea?  Apparently not.  But God does.  Jesus resisted all evil when He was on earth.  And it wasn’t because He wasn’t tempted!  Even though He was tempted worse than anyone, He said no to it all.  He came out of the grave as a total victor, not one tally mark of sin to His record.

Wish you had a record like that?  You don’t have to.  Jesus Christ is willing to give you His record–and His strength to resist temptation.

Does that mean you’ll never smoke another cigarette?

Maybe.  Or maybe it means you’ll begin a battle that lasts 6 months.  Or 6 years.  But Jesus will give you the power to stop whatever is destroying you, and the more you trust Him, the faster it will happen.

I’ve known for a long time about the back exercises I should be doing, the diet changes I should make, and the conversations of negativity I should stop having.  I haven’t mastered my lacks yet.  But God has given me the strength to do so.  And I’ve already said no to many things I use to say yes to, like bad movies and an addiction to video games.  I’m getting stronger in some of my no’s, like correcting when I tell little white lies instead of letting them go–something that used to be nearly unheard of for me.

My journey may not seem like much, but I can tell a change because I know who I used to be.  And the more I trust in Jesus Christ, the more of a change I can tell.

No more zucchini & gum–soon, I hope by His grace!

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14, NIV)


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