If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of self-control. Self-control is “control or restraint of oneself or one’s actions, feelings, etc. Synonyms are self-discipline, self-restraint, willpower, levelheadedness.” (www.dictionary.com).
“Being a person who is self-controlled means demonstrating serious strength of character. Throughout history, man has encountered his most significant downfalls and tragedies through his inability to say one very small word – “no.” Our conviction, or lack of it, will greatly determine the outcome of our lives. The choices we make are clear markers of the depth of our self-control. Of all the flourishing cultures that have crumbled over the past thousands of years most have been marked by a general lack of self-control among the people. Having self-control means having an inward strength and restraint. Living a self-controlled life requires far greater strength and courage than living a life of random experimentation. Many things in life seem like they would be fun or interesting to experiment with, yet the result of just one experience can mean total destruction of family, fortune or future. Is anything worth the dramatic changes in your life that will come about as a result of seeking momentary pleasure? Whether it is drugs, alcohol, food, anger, or other physical desires, if you don’t want to become a slave to any of these things like so many others have before you, you must exercise self-control! You don’t have to be controlled by anything in your life, if you can just control yourself. Stay in control!
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.3).
Self-control is one of the attributes that the Heart of A Champion Character Development Program (http://www.heartofachampion.org/) strives to develop in young people in its outreach program. Their written and video programs approach this under 4 subtopics: Self Control with your Body, Self-Control with Emotions, Self-Control with Speech, and Self-Control with Freedom. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …
Self-Control with your Body
“Think about all the ways we face pressure to have our bodies measure up to societal or cultural standards. We measure our bodies in relation to how fat, how strong, how appealing, or how good they feel. We face opportunities to take performance-enhancing drugs, to use drugs or alcohol, or to diet to the point of risking our health. We know what the boundaries ae to help control our choices, but how do we find the strength to function within those boundaries?”
“There is an old truth that says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people cast of restraint.’ What that means is that when people don’t have a vision for their lives, they tend to have a lack of restraint, and that’s when they get into trouble. Self-control is about strength – being strong enough to stand in your convictions, and not be swayed to do otherwise even when nearly everyone else is. It’s also about being strong enough and wise enough to take proactive steps so you will not get yourself into a situation where the temptation can overwhelm you. Make a strategy and Stand Firm!
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.5).
“Kimiko is an amazing young woman. She is a champion diver who represented the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics. To do so, Kimiko had to overcome any fears of jumping from a platform 33 feet above the water. But she had to overcome an even greater struggle.”
Her identity and sense of self-worth was totally wrapped up in her diving. So when she sustained a serious injury that sidelined her for 3 years, it almost devastated her. She began to suffer from an eating disorder because she came to believe that in order to perform better, she had to be thinner. It became an obsession with her, worrying about what others were thinking about her body. She finally decided to seek help. Counselors helped her to realize that the underlying cause of her eating disorder had nothing to do with eating; it had nothing to do with food; and it had everything to do with emotions; and it had everything to do with self-worth.
“Typically, disorders such as Kimiko’s are the product of an unhealthy self-image. Most of us either see ourselves as either too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, having too much of this or not enough of that. Yet each one of us is exceptionally and wonderfully made. We can’t judge ourselves by the standard of beauty set by the world around us. What we see in movies, television and advertisements is not reality. It is filtered, airbrushed, and special-effected. As Kimiko learned, true beauty is really reflected by what’s on the inside, and that is where all of us have control. See yourself for how great you truly are and don’t sacrifice your health or your future trying to live up to an altered state of reality. U R special!”
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.4).
“Mike Huckabee feared he was in serious trouble. During 2003, the Arkansas governor had consistently been feeling tired. He also experienced chest pains and shortness of breath, and was on medication for diabetes. All the signs pointed to issues with his heart. As the 48-year-old politician sat in his doctor’s office that spring, preparing for a heart test that would show if there was any blockage, Huckabee wondered if he was about to receive news he dreaded. To his relief, no heart problems were found, but Huckabee still found himself in the midst of a serious wake-up call.
Huckabee had been presiding over a cabinet meeting during that same year, overseeing things from the relative comfort of an antique chair in the newly restored conference room in the state’s capitol building. Under the weight of the governor’s then 280-pound frame, the chair collapsed, sending Huckabee crashing to the floor.
‘It was an awkward moment for all of us,’ Huckabee said. ‘They’re thinking, ‘He’s our boss. Do you laugh?’ I tried to make light of it, but it was humiliating.’
Humbled and concerned for his health, the governor got up off the floor and resolved to radically change his life. Over the next 100 pounds in a successful battle against the bulge the earned him admirers in his own state and across the nation. He has since chronicled his story in a book titled, Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.
‘I couldn’t go out there and urge our state to live a healthy life if I were a poster child for unhealthy living,’ Huckabee said. ‘A lot of people come up to me and say if I could make this radical change, they can do it too.’
Huckabee developed some mottos during his crusade against his waistline. ‘If it comes through the car window, it isn’t food’ is one. ‘Stop ignoring signals from your body’ is another. All simple truths he had to face if he was going to shape up. ‘I realized that I was headed toward an early death, and I would have no one to blame but me,’ he said.
Huckabee went on a medically supervised diet with dramatic results. For 15 weeks, he didn’t consume any solid food. Instead, he drank five packets of powder each day, which constituted his allowance of 800 calories. ‘From the time I started, I had very little hunger feelings,’ he said. ‘I was very focused to succeed and was surprisingly not tempted to cheat as much as I was determined not to.’
He also underwent counseling on behavior and lifestyle changes and exercise. The key was programming himself into a lifestyle that emphasizes fitness and treats food as fuel, not reward. ‘A lot of addictions are dealt with in a 12-step process,’ he said. ‘I discovered it’s not the steps I need to take, it’s the stops I need to make. The real breakthrough wasn’t what to do, it’s how do I stop doing what I’ve been doing.’
Huckabee’s book details his ’12-stop program,’ including: stop procrastinating, stop making excuses, stop expecting immediate success, stop making exceptions, and stop whining. Huckabee instituted an exercise regimen of at least 30-minutes every day, and completely changed his eating habits – both changes he says are for the long term. ‘I’d dieted before and lost weight before, but I’d never built a healthy life-style,’ he said. ‘There’s got to be a mind change before there can be a life change.’
Huckabee’s transformation was so substantial, he was able to reverse his diabetes and run a marathon. As he told the Associated Press, ‘My body chemistry has completely changed from an unhealthy middle-aged guy headed toward a heart attack to the body chemistry of a healthy person.’”
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.6).
Self-Control with Emotions
“Strong emotions can cause us to react without thinking through the consequences of our choices or action. When our emotions are the strongest – either high or low – we should not immediately react, but rather carefully and rationally think through the situation and how we should best respond. To be self-controlled emotionally, means we won’t let our emotions overcome our rational thought process. Emotion and passion are good and necessary, but without self-control they can be destructive. Channeled the proper way, emotion can be the instigator of great change. Remember, U need to B wise. (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.7).
Air Force Colonel David Eberly
“Air Force Colonel David Eberly served in the Gulf War. In 1991, while flying an air strike mission over Iraq, David was shot down and became a prisoner of war. Through days and nights of torture in captivity, David never lost hope. Neither did his wife, who waited for her husband to return.”
After his capture, he spent the next 43 days in 4 types of prison. Food became an issue, as David and other prisoners were slowly being starved to death. Hours of endless interrogation tested David’s sanity. He was sustained through his ordeal by his sense of peace. He retired from the USAF in November, 1997, but continues to work independently for the US government. His book Faith Beyond Belief details his experience as a downed airman and prisoner in Baghdad.
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.7).
“In 2005, after nearly 13 years of running the daily operation of Radio Shack as the company’s CEO, Len Roberts made a transition to the role of Executive Chairman, where he is an ambassador for the company. Joining Radio Shack as CEO in 1993, Roberts experienced great success heading one of America’s most well-known companies, yet after spending 20 years leading various companies, he decided it was time to spend more time at home with his family.
The most significant step in that life change was actually set in place some 15 years earlier. It was near midnight one night in 1990 when he received a call at his home informing him that his oldest daughter Dawn, then 20, had been struck by a drunken driver and was hospitalized on life support. Doctors urged Roberts and his wife Laurie to come to the hospital immediately as they were not expecting Dawn to live through the night. The couple jumped in their car and started off on the 90-minute drive from their home in Atlanta to the hospital in Athens, GA. ‘It was the longest drive of our lives,’ Roberts said. ‘We cried all the way.’
Against all odds, Dawn eventually made a full recovery. She endured two emergency brain surgeries and months of rehabilitation. She went on to finish college, get married and start both a career and a family in Chicago. The experience became a defining event in Robert’s life and changed his perspective dramatically. ‘I don’t know of anything else that I think of every day of my life,’ Roberts said. ‘One aspect or another always comes to me. Something will happen that will remind me of some of the pain, or some of the joy, or some of the gratitude we have.’
Dawn was injured while walking through a parking lot at the University of Georgia, when the driver slammed his car into her from behind. The drive, who was later sentenced to 3-and-a-half years in prison, did not stop. He drove off, parked, and ran to hide in his fraternity house. Dawn’s injuries were severe: a serious brain injury, fractured pelvic bone and jaw, a crushed left leg, and facial lacerations. When Roberts and his wife arrived at the hospital, the doctor told them there was nothing more that could be done for Dawn. Her brain was hemorrhaging and no on in the area was qualified to handle that type of injury. A neurosurgeon who was vacationing nearby was located. He operated on Dawn and kept her alive. Many difficult days followed, but the Roberts family continued to see progress they described as miraculous.
While his daughter recovered, Roberts did not. Still hurting emotionally, he developed a steady family routine: Everyone was to stay upbeat while visiting Dawn, and then let loose when they came together afterwards. As Dawn began to improve, Roberts struggled with the fine line between joy and despair. He was feeling intense anger toward the man who had injured his daughter. He dealt with his emotions by writing a long letter to a probation officer, in which he detailed Dawn’s injuries and his fears that she might not be able to have children. He urged he maximum prison sentence for the driver. He also wrote a note to the driver’s parents, in which he condemned the boy for driving while drunk, for not stopping to help, and for not apologizing. He also told them that his family may never forgive their son for the way he injured their daughter. It was harsh, but true to Robert’s feelings at the time.
To help get over the anger Roberts threw himself into Dawn’s rehabilitation. He studied intensely about her injuries, joined support groups, and worked with Dawn throughout. It helped her recover and helped him pull through the emotional roller coaster. In the end, the most important thing he had to do was let go of the anger. When he did, he found emotional freedom. Today, he is surprised by the tone of his letters. ‘I was hurting so bad, I guess I wanted him to hurt too,’ he said.
Now 15 years past the incident, Roberts has healed emotionally and has learned to focus on the positives. ‘This is a story of a close family becoming closer,’ he wrote about the ordeal. ‘Oh how fortunate we are to have and love one another.’”
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.9).
Self-Control with Speech
“Sometimes we are quick to speak out of frustration or anxiety, but often words said in those times can create bad situations for us and we regret what we have said. People clearly recognize that true moral authority is seen in those who can control their tongue. Those who use words carelessly do not demonstrate power or authority. Rather, it is self-control in speech that demonstrates true authority. An old truth tells us the most difficult thing to tame in our world is not a wild animal, but our own tongue. But you can do it! Remember, to be a person of true authority and impact, U need to tame your tongue!
“Tim Howard was a goalie for the most popular sports team in the world, Manchester United Football (soccer) Club in England. Tim is also American, which means he’s had to make a transition to a different culture and a different type of fan following. Tim also has Tourette’s Syndrome, which creates other challenges. However he has learned how to manage it all.”
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.10).
“How do you react when you stub your toe? How about when you receive a bad test grade? What words do you use to express anger or frustration? The words we use are one of the most important ways that we represent ourselves to the people around us. However, experts estimate that swearing among young people is at an all-time high. In fact, the average high school student uses about 80-90 swear word each day.
So just what in the &%$#@ can be done about all this vulgar language?
Well, one young man had an idea.
14-year-old high school student, McKay Hatch had had enough of the profusion of profanities that his friends were using “to fit in.” He told his friends that if they wanted to hang out with him they had to stop cussing.
‘Most of my friends were cussing and it really bothered me,’ said Hatch. ‘So I challenged them that, ‘Hey, I don’t like the language you are using,’ and I told them if they wanted to hang with me then I didn’t want hear them cuss.
‘They came back to me in the 8th grade and told me, ‘It’s because of you that we don’t cuss.’ So we started a No Cussing Club.’
Hatch’s stand started something that caught on. Eventually 50 Pasadena High School students stood with him, and last summer held their inaugural No Cussing Club meeting. Nine months later a Web site was launched, which now identifies several chapters and 10,000 members across the U.S. McKay has been featured in countless newspaper and magazine articles, and has even been a guest on the Tonight Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Dr. Phil.
‘This all started with five of my friends,’ McKay said. ‘Now we have about 20,000 members nationwide.’
Hatch’s efforts not only affected his school, but also his community. Hoping to promote civility throughout the city, South Pasadena (CA) Mayor Michael Cacciotti and the city council declared the first week in March as No Cussing Week. ‘It’s part of exercising self-discipline,’ Cacciotti told the Pasadena Star-News. ‘It’s about treating each other with love and respect.’
‘My mom and dad always taught me good morals, good values, and not cussing was one of them,’ Hatch told the Associated Press when asked about his efforts. His parents are co-authors of the family handbook Raising a G-Rated Family in an X-Rated World.
But not everyone is demonstrating the same love and respect back to McKay. His stand has infuriated the pro-cussing crowd, many of whom have sent false pizza deliveries to his house and profane hate messages and even death threats to both his email inbox and voicemail.
Still, McKay is undeterred.
‘It’s definitely worth it,’ he says. ‘Now we have members in all 50 states and 30 countries. People are signing up with our Web site and they’re taking the pledge to use language to uplift and make people feel good about themselves.
‘That’s what this whole club is. It’s about talking to people with civility and respect, and making people feel good about themselves. That all starts with your words and how you choose to use them.’
No Cussing Clubs can be started at any school in America, or abroad for that matter. If you’re interested in starting a chapter at your school or organization, check out McKay’s website at www.nocussing.com.”
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.12).
Self-Control with Freedom
“Many throughout the history of our nation have died defending our right to be free. From their sacrifice, you have the right to freely choose how you will live within certain legal guideline. While the price has been steep, those who gave their lives envisioned a people that would rightly govern themselves; a people who would make wise choices and exercise restraint. It is when people cast off restraint, that chaos ensues. Our laws can’t truly provide self-restraint, because restraint comes from within. Only you can restrain yourself from abusing the freedoms you have been given, not just by our country, but also by your family, school, friends and community. Live under self-control and be truly free. Remember, exercising restraint means U R really free!
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.13).
“Courtney Kupets is a gymnastics champion. She was a member of silver medal winning U.S. women’s Olympic team in 2004. But with traveling the world, competing in front of thousands of spectators, and experiencing great success, Courtney has learned where she needs to draw the line when it comes to her freedoms.”
Her focus was on maintaining a normal childhood while still enjoying the sport of gymnastics. Neither she nor her parents were obsessed with her becoming and Olympic champion. They viewed that as “icing on the cake” if it happened, but it was not “the be all, end all” of her life. She learned that she could balance the rigors of training and a normal lifestyle. She made it to the top because she understood how to not let either world control her. Rather in exercising self-control, she found true freedom to enjoy all of her experiences. Through it all she has learned valuable lessons that will last her a lifetime.
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.13).
“She was the wrong person, in the wrong place at the wrong time, she thought. It turned out she was the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Had it not been for her quick thinking and courageous actions, or her having learned her own lessons in self-control with her freedoms, Ashley Smith may not have been alive to tell her story.
Authorities say the 26-year-old Smith’s calmness and gentleness contributed to Brian Nichols’ peaceful surrender after he held her hostage for more than seven hours in her suburban Atlanta, GA apartment in March of 2005. She believes the alleged murderer was brought to her door so he couldn’t hurt anyone else. ‘I feel like I met him for a reason,’ Smith said of Nichols. ‘If that was for myself not to get killed, or any other police officers not to … (then) my purpose was fulfilled.’
The day prior to the encounter, Nichols, a jailed defendant, escaped with a gun from an Atlanta jail and went on a shooting rampage that left four people dead before taking Smith hostage. He put the gun to her side in the parking lot outside her apartment about 2 am and forced her into her apartment.
‘He said, ‘I’m not going to hurt you if you just do what I say,’’ she said. ‘I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt anybody else.’’ Nichols then tied Smith up with masking tape, a curtain and extension cord and told her to sit in the bathroom while he took a shower. ‘I thought he was going to strangle me,’ she said. But by 9 a.m. the next morning, Smith had convinced Nichols to let her go and peacefully surrender. ‘I honestly think when I looked at him that he didn’t want to do it anymore,’ Smith said in a televised statement in the aftermath of the incident.
Throughout the night Smith talked to Nichols about her own personal story, read to him from a popular book called The Purpose Driven Life, and told him he could have hope and a future despite his crimes. Smith told Nichols that he must surrender and be held accountable for what he did, but that his life still had a purpose and that he could affect the lives of other inmates in prison. She also told him about her 5-year-old daughter and the death of her husband four years prior. ‘I told him that if he hurt me, my little girl wouldn’t have a mommy or daddy,’ Smith said. She added that Nichols ‘just wanted some normalness in his life…He said he thought I was an angel…and that he was lost,’ said Smith.
It was a feeling Smith was familiar with. Her own life had taken a sharp left turn when she hit adolescence. She began to explore her freedom, partying with wild friends and using drugs and alcohol. Although she was raised in a good home, she couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. Between 1996 and 2003, Smith had pled guilty to shoplifting, become pregnant, dropped out of high school, was arrested for drunk driving, and watched her husband die in her arms following a brawl. She also voluntarily gave up custody of her daughter because she couldn’t provide a stable home for her.
Just when it seemed Smith couldn’t go any lower, she found hope. She checked in for a six-month stay at a substance rehabilitation center and came out a different person. What was deposited in her during that time changed her life and gave her focus. She moved to Atlanta in 2004, hoping to start over and possibly regain custody of her daughter. With new friends and a new perspective, life was heading in the right direction. Smith understood what it meant to have true freedom – freedom from the things that had once kept her in bondage. It was that freedom she spoke of to Nichols. ‘Most of my time was spent talking about my life and experiences in my life – things that had happened to me,’ she said in a CNN interview. ‘After I started to read to him, he saw – I guess he saw…what I really believed in.’
During the night, Smith gradually earned Nichol’s trust. ‘I told him I was supposed to see my little girl the next morning at 10,’ Smith said. Eventually Nichols untied Smith, and then he opened up. He told her he felt like ‘he was already dead,’ but she encourage him to consider the fact that he was still alive a ‘miracle.’ ‘I said, ‘Do you believe in miracles? Because…you are here for a reason,’’ she said. ‘I said, ‘You know, your miracle could be that you need to – you need to be caught for this.’’
An hour later, Nichols gave smith $40 and let her leave. She got in her car and called 911. Police surrounded her apartment complex. Nichols gave up peacefully, waving a white towel in surrender.
Smith’s actions were a testament to the work that had occurred in her own life. In learning self-control, she gained an understanding of real freedom – a truth she shared with Nichols. Said her former stepfather Larry Croft, ‘This has put an exclamation mark on what her character is all about.’”
(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Self-Control, Volume 3, p.15).
John Maxwell says that self-discipline is one of the “indispensable qualities of a leader. He says this about self-discipline: “If you want to become a leader for whom self–discipline is an asset, follow these action points:
1. Develop and Follow Your Priorities
2. Make a Disciplined Lifestyle Your Goal
3. Challenge Your Excuses
4. Remove Rewards Until the Job Is Done
5. Stay Focused on Results”
(The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader, pp. 128-130)
Brian Biro believes that self-control is one of the 15 key building blocks in the Pyramid of Success that leads to effective leadership and life. His book is based on legendary Coach John Wooden’s structure for personal growth based on real success. Biro says this about self-control: “Self-control is perhaps the single most important ingredient in leading by example. One individual who exemplified remarkable self-control in the face of tremendous pressure was Jackie Robinson. When Robinson broke the color barrier in major-league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, he was subjected to unbelievably intense abuse from fans, opposing players, and even his own teammates…. Jackie Robinson epitomizes two key facets of self-control. The first is maintaining self-control during the toughest times, even when the most difficult obstacles appear before you…. Jackie Robinson also provided us with a brilliant example of the second key facet of self-control – patiently sticking to your own game.
(Beyond Success, pp. 92-96)
Think about what it takes to demonstrate the proper self-control in your life: with your body, with your emotions, with your speech, and with freedom. I hope that, after reading this month’s article, you know a little more about self-control and how you can further develop that attribute to Become The Man God Wants You To Be. Thanks for reading…