Self-Control

We have arrived at the last topic of the virtues I have labeled as outcomes. The manager in me regards outcomes as the changes in thinking and beliefs, which alter our future actions. The spiritual; zealot in me has absconded with a New Testament passage written by the Apostle Paul to a small group of fledgling believers to help them understand what changes should be evident in light of their choice to abandon what we now call their pagan beliefs. There are nine: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The Greek word the great apostle absconded with to enliven his readers’ imaginations was used in a purely secular manner by the Greeks to indicate the discipline of an athlete. While Paul certainly meant his concept of self-control to be about something other than the rigors of physical training, the commonality we should consider is the necessity of self-denial. Athletes in training, as we see them today, alter their entire lifestyle as they submit to a routine of vigorous training to develop greater strength and dexterity to perform at their best. This leaves me at a loss to boast of any accolades for my own spiritual prowess.

As I wrote last week, I am on a lengthy road trip with a friend, who needs a trained guide dog to navigate the day-to-day challenges of a life less lived. We have meandered our way through six states and nearly the full breadth of American history as we have made stops to sample the lives and times of our various predecessors still on display thanks to the efforts of those who maintain our priceless heritage. Of course anyone who is familiar with my own career path as a museum administrator will safely assume that I am orchestrating the stops we make as part of my therapy program for my traveling companion.

The downside of this adventure is that it has left me little time for writing. This accounts for the brevity of this message and the tardiness of getting it posted. Sadly I am not providing a favorable example of self-control. Instead I would like to defer back to last week’s message about gentleness and say that I have had more success with that outcome than I have with number nine in the sequence.

I am also going to make a deft maneuver and rely on a message written last year about temperance since some versions of Paul’s list of outcomes use this word instead of self-control. Then I was relying on the Latin word temperantia used by Cicero to translate Plato’s use of the Greek word sophrosyne to indicate the virtue ofmoderation. Admittedly this is not the same as Paul’s admonition towards the beyond normal demands to which an athlete submits. But I am desperate to add some content of value before I close and head off to our next destination and this is the best I can do.

What Cicero and Plato were after was moderation in our basic appetite for food, drink, and sex. Self-denial is the discipline they have in common with Paul. And while the good apostle expressed other thoughts on reining in our dependence on delicacies of various types to satisfy these three appetites, his admonition was meant to direct us towards something more. There are few in my estimation who can honestly do this concept justice as evidenced by the behaviors we see that make the demanding scrutiny of the social media. This means I am in large company when considering my spiritual deficiencies.

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