You Need Some Self-Control

by Travis Bookout


I know a guy who drives me crazy.  No one can get me more upset than him.  He makes me sick.  I refer to him as “Past Travis.”  He’s a lot like me, only he’s not here anymore.  He has turned into “Present Travis.”  Let me tell you why he makes me so angry.

Do you know why I don’t have washboard abs?  Because “Past Travis” was too lazy.  Wondering why I don’t know French, German, Italian, or Latin?  Ask him.  Guess why I don’t have more money?  He would rather fritter it away on his worthless impulses!  He has set me up for failure in so many ways.  I could be so impressive if he just would have taken some initiative.

Now, let me tell you about someone who I can’t wait to meet. He is going to be smart, athletic, and remarkably interesting.  He will be fluent in many languages, eat right, be great with money, and probably be in the NFL.  I call him “Future Travis.”  I’m supremely confident that he will be amazing!

But here is the problem I’m beginning to realize. In order for Future Travis to be amazing, Present Travis needs to get busy.  I certainly can’t rely on Past Travis…lazy jerk.  And since Present Travis needs to get busy, that means I need to get busy.

To quote Daniel Gilbert, “The things we do when we expect our lives to continue are naturally and properly different than the things we might do if we expected them to end abruptly…we do each of these things in the charitable service of the people we will soon become.”[1]

So what do you want your future self to be?  You better start acting on it now.  Just do it.  DO IT!  DOOOO IIITTTT!  Shia LaBeouf will beat you up if you don’t.

The key to being able to set yourself up for the future is self-control.  To be who you want to be, you need to change who you are.  If you can control your desires now, it will be a major boon to your future happiness and well-being.  No one flosses for the momentary joy of bloody gums and spitty fingers.  You do it (or should!) so that your future self can have healthy teeth.

On the flip side, no one wants to be a drunk, drug addict, of massively overweight in the future, but many people want alcohol, drugs, and waffles now.  You don’t want skin cancer, but you want to tan now.  No one wants to wants to be a murderer, but people want to be angry and take revenge now.  King David did not want to be an adulterer, but in the moment he did want someone else’s wife.

When we act based on our present impulses to the detriment of our future selves, we are neglecting self-control.  The Bible describes “self-control” in a number of ways.  It uses the words “self-control” (Galatians 5:23), Self-denial (Mark 8:34), crucifixion (Galatians 2:20), saying, “No” (Titus 2:12 NIV).  Each of these are ways that we control our present selves in order to be the people we want to become.  Or much more, the people God wants us to become.

Christians must exercise self-control, not only to be fit, smart, and wealthy in the future, but because it’s impossible to be the person God wants you to without it.  You will not be benevolent, sexually pure, with a tame tongue, positive attitude, and evangelistic fervor, without a lot of training and practice.  Training your present self in order to shape who you become is a great definition of self-control.

Want to protect your future self?  Take steps now to control your spending, eating, and spiritual well-being.  Practice disciplines like fasting, prayer, study, and meditation which help you master your mind and body.  Set your “Future Self” up for success by being the “Present Self” you wish your “Past Self” would have been.  Like walls that protect a city, self-control protects your future.

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls”—Proverbs 25:28

[1] Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. New York; Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.