Self-control, or temperance, is one of the four cardinal virtues along with courage, prudence and justice that come to us from pagan philosophy. It is found in the list of fruits of the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5: 23). It is a virtue that pertains to keeping the passions and desires under control. It bespeaks moderation.
Can we restrain our passions in our speech to others? In the midst of dialogue and debate can we refrain from out of control behavior. This is a test for the man or woman who would be self-controlled. To be unself-controlled is a great temptation. We do not need any coaxing to bad behavior.
In a discussion where there are high stakes (as religious faith always is), it is very tempting to call someone a name, interrupt, be accusatory, blame, distort, attempt to manipulate, make fun of, yell, insult, discredit another’s character, dismiss, and so on, and so on, and so on ad nauseam.
We must remember our identity as Christians. We can pray that the Spirit give us a better capacity for self-control. We can test our ability in our relationship with loved ones, especially our spouse and children. In debate we can be emphatic and committed to our faith without being unself-controlled.
Paul writes, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (I Corinthians 9: 25 ESV) Controlling our temper and anger in everyday relationships is a sign that we may do the same in our private and public apologies of the faith. Our discipline must be intentional with those we love, especially spouse and children. I have failed many times in this endeavor, but I also hope that today and tomorrow I will do better. We must focus on a discipline of moderation. The Holy Spirit will lead us to do this.
Michael G. Tavella
August 6, 2019