Friday, May 7, 2010

Moderates and Extremists... Thoughts On Self Control

My friends and family, as a general rule, fall into one of two categories.

The first group, which I will call the extremists for lack of a better adjective, will quickly get obsessed with things, and then find the only way to control the addiction is to go cold turkey and avoid it all together. Example: Cable TV. When an extremist has it, they watch it. All. The. Time. They allow it to zap all their time. They use it to babysit their children. They end up watching shows they wish they hadn't, either because it wasn't the greatest thing to be putting in their minds, or because it wasted their time.

Then, they decide, it needs to stop. But they know good and well they will watch it if it is there. So, they get rid of it. They cancel their cable service. They might even throw out their TV. Their family and friends roll their eyes and sigh deeply when they are told, again, that they have cancelled their service, and wonder how long before they get it turned on. Again.

The second group, which I will call the moderates, can have a little bit of everything, because they can control IT without letting IT control THEM. They can have sweets in the house, and eat just TWO cookies. They don't have to eat the whole package. They generally don't have to go on diets because they don't overeat. They aren't alcoholics because they can have ONE drink. They can have a credit card and pay off their statements at the end of the month. They can say no, they can wait on purchases. Their motto is all things in moderation.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. I fully admit I am a little bit of both. Sometimes, that is they hardest thing about me. I seem to be made up of contradictions.

But if I were to be totally honest, I get kind of annoyed with extremists, myself included. The reason why is because they/we really aren't in control of anything unless they/we can control everything. Choosing to never buy my kids cookies because I know I will eat too many of them is not really controlling the issue. Sometimes, I think extremists fail to realize how their extremism affects everyone else. They just know they need to get themselves under control, and that is what they focus on with complete abandon. The cookie example is not the best I could have chosen, because that is such a minor thing.

A better example, and a true story is as follows. Mrs Extremist has a problem overspending. She knows she has very little self control, so she cuts up her credit cards, gets rid of her Internet services (so she can not shop online or be tempted by it) and makes her husband do all the grocery shopping so she doesn't impulse buy.

In some ways, this can be good. Because after all, debt is not a good thing and we should avoid it however we can. BUT, Mrs Extremist fails to see that she has burdened everyone else as well. Her husband now has to add another task to his workload and her family and friends lose a way to contact her and see pictures of the children.

This is just one example.

I have a friend who was an alcoholic before he became a Christian. So, once he converted, he refused to partake of communion when it was wine, and he even considered those who did less spiritual, because they were tempting others to sin by drinking alcohol. But after years of maturing in his faith, he has come to a point where he can partake of wine at communion. He does not drink it any other time, but it was very interesting to me what he said about it. He said that he realized his bondage to that sin was gone, and he was behaving in a fearful manner, rather than out of a healthy place of victory over that sin.

I may not be explaining it very well, but I hope my point is coming across.

I think we need to accept people where we are. But we also need to encourage them to a place of maturity. The ultimate form of self control is not having to be so extreme.

(And this is where I want to clarify that I am referring to only things that are not of themselves inherently evil. Pornography, for example, would not fit into an area we should simply moderate. We need to obliterate all traces of destructive habits. Completely. But some things are not wrong of themselves, and those are the areas we can choose to grow in.)

In saying this, I realize there are some serious time zappers in my life. Facebook can be one of them. The computer in general can be one of them. I can quickly become absorbed in almost any project. The phone can be a problem area.

I have fantasized about how much simpler my life would be if I was Amish.

But I am not Amish.

And God has placed me here, with these unique challenges to my personality. Ultimately, my personality needs to be conformed to Christ. One of the fruits of His abiding Spirit is self control.

As I pray over and contemplate these things in my heart, I am seeking to bring self control, true self control, into every area of my life.

This may look a wee bit different in every life lived out. But may I humbly encourage you to press towards maturity in all things? And I also ask that you encourage me as well.

A word of encouragement does wonders.

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