OF SELF-CONTROL AND SELF-RESTRAINT

In a world where everyone is ready to compromise and satiate their desires, what makes you stay afloat – holding onto your values and maintaining self-restraint and self-control as much as possible? Apart from God and His divine strength what are the things that boost you to stay self-controlled?

In my response to this question, the first impression that I would like to make is that ‘self-restraint’ and ‘self-control’ are not easy. Looking at the different philosophies and belief patterns across the world today, it seems as if humankind has woken up to a desperate attempt to propagate and exercise ‘self-control’. The recent school of thought which I came across just a few days before was that one needn’t do anything to exercise control over oneself. The reasoning being that the moment a person attempts to control something in himself/herself, it generates stress. So the way out, according to the speaker, is to live the desire and let it die out in the process.

While I would not mince words to label the above as faulty reasoning (as did many others in the audience), I wouldn’t go into the details of justifying the same in this space – because then, that itself would consume the entire writing space!

How do I face my desires? When and how do I exercise self-restraint and self-control?

The question that is put to me seeks an answer – ‘apart from God and His divine strength’ what helps me to stay self-controlled. But as I set to think of it, I can say that all reins of self-control and self-restraint that I have and continue to practise in my life revolve solely around God and His divine strength.

Desire to acquire/possess

When encountered with the desire to acquire and possess things which are over and above my needs, what keeps me grounded is the faces of people who are deprived of even the basics that I am blessed to have. And so I acknowledge that what I have to satiate my needs and many of my wants as well, are enough.

A strong human urge is to want to acquire the things someone else has. It may be a piece of clothing, a particular vehicle, a house, a more lucrative career, better education to one’s child than a relative’s child and so on. In a day and age of increased materialism and digitization where the global market and the best of cross-cultural products are just a few clicks away, the temptation to indulge is difficult to resist. The desire to show that one’s possessions are unique and better than someone else’s is pretty strong. In such times the following verse from the Bible pulls my reins –

“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife . . . or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

Neighbour, here, doesn’t necessarily refer to someone who stays next door. It broadly refers to anyone whom one is closely acquainted with. And so when I find a good possession with anyone, I make sure to appreciate it but I do not go further thinking – ‘I wish I had it as well!’

Desire to achieve

We are living in times of cut-throat competition to achieve. There is nothing wrong to aspire for greater career goals. In fact, the higher the bar we set for ourselves and push ourselves towards it, the more we tend to discover our hidden potentials and God-given abilities. However when it comes to having an endless desire to achieve, one tends to neglect certain more important goals in life.

I’ve been there. Having had quite a decent academic record, it was quite natural to aspire for greater goals. To be surrounded with expectations from friends, family, teachers and well-wishers to aim for loftier heights was indeed motivating. But in my desire to achieve, I came to a stage where I needed to ask myself the reason behind it all. And, I discovered that to want to achieve just for the sake of it or for the sake of people around is a vain goal. What is more important is to follow my God-given passion to create a difference around me.

It’s not always easy to walk in this path. On one hand are the lures of power, position, financial affluence and recognition in aiming to achieve what the world calls ‘achievement’. On the other hand are obscurity, lack of fame and recognition, possible financial constraints and being an absolute nobody among the who’s who around.

I have dealt with this in realising that achievements of this world stay back in this world. They won’t matter much. All life comes to an end. The most illustrious person dies one day leaving all behind and so does a tramp on the street who has not much to call his/her own. But creating a difference in at least one person’s life no matter how insignificant a position I may be in, would matter a lot – not only on this earth but in eternity. As Jesus Christ says – ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I still am not there completely. But, this is what helps me to exercise restraint in the face of mindless desires for achievement.

Adolescent desires for relationship

This is something I have been mostly quizzed about by friends and the teenagers that I deal with. In senior school and college years, I was one of the few who didn’t have a boyfriend. Most of my friends were into fluttering relationships. And some who didn’t, often lamented the fact that they didn’t have anyone interesting in their lives. On being told that I didn’t feel the need for love-life then, a few of my friends felt that though I was intellectually gifted, perhaps I was lagging behind in a component of emotional development J  

Well, what kept me in control? The love of Jesus Christ. I was so saturated with the highest form of love from my early teen years, that I never felt the need for the love of a man in my life before God’s appointed time. The love of the One who loved me with His all (giving His life for me), forgave my sins (which no boyfriend claiming to love me, could), gave me the assurance of eternal fellowship with my Creator (which surpasses any precious gift given by a lover), promised to be by my side at all times no matter where and in what situation I was (which even the best of all lovers cannot do) – was so encompassing and overwhelming for me that I didn’t feel the need to look beyond.

And so I didn’t fall prey to youthful temptations. Of course, it has been none of my doing. I am eternally grateful to God for helping me experience the depth of His love on His own accord – for loving me first before I could even think of anything of that sort.

Having answered the question in sharing the ways in which I exercise self-control and self-restraint, I also confess that there have been times in which I have given in to temptations – at times unintentionally, but sometimes with full conscious knowledge. Each time in reflection and introspection, I have realized that those were the times that I shifted my focus from God onto something or someone else. That’s when I tripped.

So yes, it’s not easy to practise self-control for long by sheer determination or willpower. It’s the power of God’s spirit that keeps me going.

OF DAYS GONE BY, THOSE THAT ARE AND THOSE YET TO COME

Oftentimes our human mind is hasty to picture modernization merely in terms of technological advancements. However, the concept of modernization is much broader than that. A reflection on the emergence and development of various civilizations of the world would make us realize that each civilization that came into existence centuries later, was more advanced and modern than those preceding it. That is how we have the Stone Age giving way to the Bronze Age which in turn gave way to the Iron Age. And gradually, we are today in what can aptly be called as the Digital Age! In historical and sociological terms, the present age that we are living in today is termed as the ‘post-modern age’.

As we look back to the blissful past, there are indeed certain things that dim the illumination of this post-modern age. Today, the world is teeming with high human population; but sadly humanity is on the decline. Education opportunities are on the rise – scholarships, fellowships and educational loans are easily available now than they were in the past. However increasing knowledge base has reduced the basic levels of common sense in people – leave alone digging deep into the mines of wisdom. IQ levels have risen, but EQ levels have miserably dipped. The global job market offers numerous opportunities for people to carve a niche for themselves. With high standard jobs come high income, more facilities and less peace of mind. Many people have tasted sweet success in their careers today, than they could do in the past. But the pressure to remain successful makes life and living stressful.

Newer explorations to the space, sun, moon, Mars and other planets are being planned everyday; while people have little communication with their own family members and with their neighbours. The picture at the dinner table is increasingly becoming like this: the family members sitting around the table – a spoon in one hand and a mobile in the other, eyes fixated onto the screen! Where is the time for bonding, communication, emotional development within the family that used to be a tale to boast years down the lane?

There was a time when families lived under thatched houses or one-room apartments, but did share their joys and sorrows with each other. With increasing modernization, bigger houses with excellent amenities mark prosperity. But, with it comes the concept of individual space (which is so widely misunderstood) – a room for each member of the family, thus isolating each person to his/her own corner. Gaps in the family bonding are wide enough to give space to extra-marital relationships and conflicts among the members.

Healthcare is at its best today than it was few decades back. But giving the healthcare think tanks a tough time, are lifestyle diseases and psychological problems, which are at their peaks today than they were anytime previously. Alienation leading to depression, performance pressure giving rise to anxiety disorders and the pressure to conform to changing patterns giving rise to personality disorders.

We are increasingly developing into an impatient generation. We want things to be done instantly – no matter to whatever extent we need to go to get our ends met. The practice of delayed gratification and self-control are quickly fading into the oblivion.

We cannot travel back in time to those simple days of innocence and bliss. Time moves forward. Development is the name of the day. And we all want to taste the boons of modernization. However as we aim to fly high in the air, let’s bear in mind that dust we are and to dust we shall return. No matter what era we belong to, we need to hold the basic life values dear to the heart and pass on the same to the generation next.

 

THE TEMPTING TEMPTATIONS

These are ubiquitous, available in all shapes, sizes and colours and are really difficult to handle. I am talking about the irresistible ‘temptations’.

Every person on this earth is tempted by something or the other. Temptation to gratify passion needs, to be superior, to drive fast, to earn more, to go ahead in the rat race, to beg, to steal and to be gluttony. Temptations are within each one of us and it is very difficult to resist them.

Kids get tempted to buy toys, which is natural. They will shout, scream or even lie down in the mall if you don’t get that toy.  But, as parents, we know that we cannot give in to their tantrums every time. Similarly, having a temptation isn’t that bad. It is ok within limits. You find an empty road, get tempted to hit the accelerator, but you should know when to hit the brake and not jump the red light.

I remember there was a friend of mine who was unable to resist himself from working out. Usual workout is ok, but it seemed his motto in life had become ‘go to gym unto death’. Before work, after work, between work, he was always tempted to hit the gym. The result- his social life had gone down to zilch.

Recently, I got myself a new smart phone. No, it wasn’t a temptation because my old phone was falling sick every now and then and after more than 3 years, it was time to bid it adieu. Since I have a major online shopping temptation, I have an average of 6-8 online shopping apps in my phone. I shortlist things and put them in the cart. However, even after putting the items in the cart, I rarely confirm the order straight away. Instead, I wait for a day or two, and then check if I really need that item or not. In this way, I save myself from being labelled as a spendthrift!

As quoted by Oscar Wilde- “I can resist everything except temptations”, resisting temptations is a tricky job. But, it’s not impossible either. Don’t resist yourself; just remember your permissible limits and don’t get too tempted by the tempting temptations!