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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Self-Control

We've come to the last aspect of character that Paul lists as being part of the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives: self-control. To be completely honest, this has not always been a strong part of my character. For all of my life I have fought a bad temper that has simmered deep inside wanting to get out. There have been many times it would have felt so good to just let go, but looking back, each of those times, letting go would have destroyed a friendship or relationship, making a bad situation much worse. But self-control is so about much more than just anger, it's about balance in life.
Self-control is seldom embraced as something we really value because it might mean giving up something we really want. Self-control might look like this: Saturday night is friends' night; going out and enjoying good friends, food and a little wine. This is a good thing and important. The self-control comes into play when you balance the good times with your friends with the call to join with your church family the next morning to celebrate with them the things God is doing in your life and community on Sunday morning.
Now maybe you're not religious, self-control might be about how you balance the good times of Saturday night with being there for your kids when they get up, fully being their parent on the one day of the week where you all have some extra time.
Self-control might look like holding your tongue when you want to say something sarcastic because you've find something ridiculous and wrong, but sarcasm often ends up hurting someone else or making you look negative.
Self-control might look like holding off on buying the newest iPhone or toy and putting the money towards bills, or using some of it to bless a charity or someone you know who could use a little extra help to simply get by.
Self-control might look like leaving work at the end of the day and leaving your work there instead of taking it home again and instead taking the time to really be with your spouse, your kids, your friends, or simply to wind down and get a decent night's rest.
How would self-control work in your life? The examples I've listed are examples from my life, but we are all different and are out of balance in our lives in different ways. But in the end, it comes down to your priorities and values in your life which reveals your character.
A healthy person has balance in their life, balancing responsibility with entertaining yourself, balancing relationships with others and taking care of yourself, balancing caring for yourself and caring for others, balancing time and work and family and volunteering and more. Self-control is about shaping your life with an ethical and honorable foundation recognizing that you are not the center of the universe.
For followers of Jesus, self-control is about being a master of yourself and living your life in the way that Jesus desires and has called you to live. If you are looking for a summary of what that looks like, it's found in Jesus' call to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbour as yourself; a noble and healthy life.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Gentleness

This past week I saw a beautiful thing, a man holding another man who was weeping because of the brokenness in his life. The man who was weeping had made so many wrong choices in life and now they had come back to bite him hard. The man who was holding him gently sat him down and over the next while simply listened and offered his compassion. He answered with love and gentleness, acknowledging the brokenness and even the other man's role in creating the brokenness, but he simply showed love and understanding.
For me, this is what gentleness is all about: compassion, love and support in difficult times. It doesn't mean that you ignore the other person's role in creating the difficult time, it means focusing first on the person and their need for hope, healing and understanding. It means not jumping right away to assigning responsibility or blame, but to simply being there; person to person, heart to heart, realizing that we might well be in the other person's shoes if things had turned out only slightly different from choices or decisions we've made in our own past. Gentleness is often grace in action.
Gentleness is strength and courage acting in love and grace because it's about moving towards hut and brokenness instead of away, about seeking understanding and desiring healing for someone else and being willing to be the one who brings it.
If you are looking for one area of your character to grow in the next year, I would suggest gentleness and you will be a life changer.