Self-Control and Avoiding Temptation—Part 2
From the Roadmap series
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Some people are strongly affected by their emotions. That’s not altogether bad, unless the emotions are negative. If you have a tendency to get angry and blow off steam, speed when driving because you’re frustrated or upset, binge-drink when you’re sad or lonely, or other such actions, it’s important to learn to control your emotions. Managing your emotions doesn’t mean you stop feeling or expressing yourself.
Managing your emotions means:
You don’t overreact to situations.
You take a moment to put things in perspective.
You remain firmly in control, so that your emotions enhance your life, rather than ruin it.
You make your emotions work for you. Not against you.—Burke Hedges, You, Inc.1
Consider this true story.
When the athlete was only a boy, it was obvious to everybody that he was blessed with special physical gifts. He loved all sports, and excelled at every one he ever tried.
When he was nine years old, his father handed him a warped wooden tennis racquet. From the first swing of the racquet, the boy was hooked! It wasn’t long before he was beating all the kids his age throughout the country.
By the time he was 12 he was regularly beating the best adult players in his country, and he could give tennis pros a run for their money. Everyone predicted he would be a world champion one day; that is, if he could only learn how to control his temper.
You see, when something went wrong, like when he missed an easy shot or if an umpire made a bad call, the boy had a fit. His temper got so out of control that he began losing matches he should have won.
One day his father came out to watch him in the finals of a big tournament. Sure enough, the boy started losing his temper, shouting, cursing, throwing his racquet. After 10 minutes of witnessing this obnoxious behavior, the father walked onto the court, and announced to everyone present, “This match is over. My son defaults.” And with that he walked over to his son and said in a stern voice, “Come with me.”
When they got home the father placed the racquet in a closet and said, “You are not to touch this racquet or any other racquet for six months, end of discussion.”
At the end of the six months, his father handed the racquet to his son with these words: “If I hear so much as one curse word, or see so much as one toss of your racquet in anger, I’ll take it from you for good. Either you control your temper or I will control it for you.”
The boy was so overjoyed to be able to play that he took to the sport with more passion than ever before. By the time he was 16, he was winning professional tournaments all over Europe.
With each tournament, the young man was getting better and better, and the press started calling him “teen angel”! You see, after his father’s suspension, the boy learned to manage his emotions even under the most stressful conditions.
Whether it was the first point of an easy match or the last nerve-racking point of a hard-fought final, his expression and demeanor remained the same. He was in complete control of his emotions.
He went on to become what many experts consider the greatest player ever. He won 14 major championships in all, including six French Open titles, the first when he was only 18 years old, and five straight Wimbledon titles. The one-time tennis brat, later known as “Teen-Angel,” was Bjorn Borg.
Borg would be the first to admit that learning to manage his emotions was the turning point in his tennis career,if not his life.Whether you are five years old or 55 years old, managing your emotions means understanding that you can’t always control what happens to you. But as Bjorn Borg learned, you CAN control your emotional response.—Burke Hedges, You, Inc. (adapted)
Bjorn Borg learned to control his emotions as a teenager, and the results were tremendous success and excellent character. Borg’s father stepped in and brought the lessons home for him. Our heavenly Father may, in some cases, do the same, if necessary, in order to teach us self-restraint and self-control. At other times, however, He may allow us to continue in the wrong direction we’ve chosen until eventually we see for ourselves where our lack of self-restraint has taken us, which is usually not where we had originally intended to go. If we want to be “quick studies,” we won’t wait for the Lord to intervene, or expect that He always will. Sometimes—often, in fact—the Lord is willing to let us learn the hard way. So it’s important that we learn to be responsible for our actions and emotions, personally.
Acting on runaway emotions will have consequences. To not think things through can have life-altering repercussions. And unfortunately, often those consequences can never be undone, nor those repercussions reversed.
Today’s society offers more freedom and more choices. We also face more temptations, more distractions, and more permissiveness. Therefore, it’s crucial that we fully understand and respect the power of our emotions, and that we learn to take responsibility for them and manage them well.
It’s never too late to learn to control your temper or manage your emotions. There are many practical tips on this, which can be effective, but the most effective way to grow in this area is through communion with the Lord, in prayer, reading God’s Word, and committing our lives and emotions to Him.
Live without regrets
Another part of self-control is related to discipline. For example, do you have enough self-control to walk away from something appealing or “fun” when it’s not the right thing to do? Or to resist doing something crazy, like accepting a dangerous dare from a friend? Do you have enough self-control to keep from overdrinking so as to avoid making a fool of yourself, or worse yet, causing some serious damage? Maybe your drunken antics hurt your relationship with your significant other. Or maybe you wrecked your car, hurt someone, or lost your job. Perhaps you flunked out of school or caused people to question your character.
Taking charge of your life requires discipline. Yes, tons of it. But discipline is neither readily attained nor easily maintained. It demands the mental stamina to overcome empty passions and faulty habits. It also requires the fortitude to resist the pull of so many temptations that otherwise might lure us toward meaningless sideshows. But more than anything, it demands a relentless focus on what matters most.—Stephen Covey2
Researchers have found twenty things that people do when they are young that they will likely regret when they are forty. Some of the things noted include smoking, posting risqué photos on the Internet, unwise social networking, getting tattoos in visible places, body piercings and plugs, overspending and getting into debt, random unprotected sex, dropping out of school, and being too busy or disinterested to spend time with the people they love.
There is a wide range of opinions on the validity of these actions, and some people might not agree with these points being a risk or something to avoid. But the point is this: You will not always have the mindsets, attitudes, or approach to life that you have today, and one day you might look back on what you’re doing now, on certain actions that you can’t take back or undo, and say, “What in the world was I thinking?!”
Leaders ought not to worry greatly about occasional mistakes, but they must vigilantly guard against those things that will make them feel ashamed.—Jon Huntsman
We are making choices now that will affect the course of the rest of our life. Undoubtedly, we want that course to be a good one. That is why it’s important that we first of all know what the Lord wants, as well as where we’re headed and why, in order to then develop the right habits and the proper disciplines needed to help us follow that path. We each hold our future in our hands; we determine what it will be by our daily choices.
God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. But what I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it! When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something that I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, and not loss; good, and not evil; success, and not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price that I have paid for it.—Attributed to W. Heartsill Wilson
Roadmap was a video series created by TFI for young adults. Originally published in 2010. Adapted and republished on Anchor May 2017. Read by Simon Peterson.
1 Burke Hedges, You, Inc. (Tampa: INTI Pub, 1996).
2 Stephen Covey, Everyday Greatness (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 2006), 101.