I think there’s a reason Paul put self-control last on his list of the Fruit of the Spirit. The way I see it, self-control keeps us from doing and saying stuff we shouldn’t. All the other fruit help us do and say stuff like Jesus. Speaking from personal experience…
Before I can be patient with my husband, I have to reign in my desire to scream at the top of my lungs when he FaceTimes me from Giant for the third time, convinced there’s no such thing as diced green chilis… and THAT takes self-control.
Before I can have a peace about my son's school options, I have to stop acting like a maniac making spreadsheets about the differences between Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia… and THAT takes self-control.
Before I can really love my neighbor, I have to forgive him for not shoveling his part of the sidewalk, even if it costs me a sprained ankle… and THAT takes self-control.
As I’ve been reminded over the last nine weeks, these Fruit identify all the things I expect from my kids, but model far too rarely. I find myself attempting to modify my three-year-old’s behavior with admonitions like, “Was that a kind way to treat your sister?” or remind my one-year-old, usually after she’s whacked her brother, “Gentle hands, Elliette.” And please tell me I’m not the only one who asks her kids to, “PLEEEASE… just be patient,” at least a dozen times a day.
Certainly as parents, part of our job is to coach our kids toward kindness, gentleness, patience and the other fruit… and this blog has given us all some great tips for how to do this better. But what I’ve kept coming back to over the course of this series is that I can’t expect something of my kids that I’m not consistently demonstrating in their presence. And I just know I can’t do this “Fruit stuff” until I stop doing “Me stuff.” I need a heck of a lot more self-control before I can really start living the other fruit in front of my kids.
At least for me, it requires heaping measures of self-control to:
- Refuse to hold on to hate, judgment or unforgiveness (so I can love well)
- Stop focusing on the negative (so my kids see joy in my life)
- Give up control (so I can find peace in the midst of uncertainty)
- Not let exasperation rule the day (so I model patience in all things)
- Think before I speak (so my words reflect kindness)
- Quit focusing on myself (so my kids, coworkers and neighbors see goodness in me)
- Never give up (so I become a faithful spouse, mom and friend)
- Polish my rough edges (so gentleness becomes my default)
The greatest of these is love, but the hardest of these is...self-control. Or maybe it's just me.
Jamie Higdon met her husband Michael through NCC in 2007. They married in 2009, have two kids, and call Woodridge in NE DC home. The Higdon family attends the Lincoln Theatre location. Jamie is a communicator by training and trade, and teaches part-time at American University.