Self-Control: Fruit of a Spiritual Life

The question posed from previous posts is: what does a spiritual person look like?

Within the context of our passage–Gal. 5:16-6:1–we find that a spiritual person is marked by the evidence of “fruit” in his/her life. This is taken from vss. 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Now the question naturally arises, “What does this fruit look like?”

There is much discussion in today’s society about love, and what that means. Some folks actually get upset and forget to love when their particular view of love is not accepted by others. (Oh well. We’ll get it someday, I’m sure.) 🙂 For the time being, I will leave that discussion until a future post. Consequently, I will begin with the last–Self-Control.

What does self-control look like?

The word so translated, was rendered “temperance” by the King Jimmy translators; but “temperance has come to denote only one form of self-control. Therefore, it is no longer a viable rendition for the word.

However, we will begin with the idea of “temperance.” Originally, it meant “moderation.” Because of the “temperance movement,” it came to mean abstinence.

Temperance (Sophrosyne in Greek is defined as “moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint.”) has been studied by religious thinkers, philosophers, and more recently, psychologists, particularly in the positive psychology movement. It is considered a virtue, a core value that can be seen consistently across time and cultures (see Historical and Religious Perspectives). It is considered one of the four cardinal virtues, for it is believed that no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire. It is also one of the six main categories of the VIA Character Strengths (see Major Theoretical Approaches). Temperance is generally defined by control over excess, so that it has many such classes, such as abstinence, chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger. (Wikipedia)

I hope you read that paragraph above with a conscious awareness. Did you get that? Self-control should be considered as the priority virtue, because no other virtue will stand if there is an inability to control oneself.

Wow! What a concept.

Of course, this thought is reinforced in Ecclesiastes 10:1 where we are told that a momentary act of stupidity can ruin a lifetime of achievement. We see this almost everyday, especially during an election campaign.

However, down here at street-level, we need to know how this works.

We all know people who seem to be quite loving in their nature. However, when they are pressed by certain circumstances, that love is nowhere to be seen.

Take a look at the list of the fruit of the spirit once again: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Do you know someone who seems to be patient–until patience is called for?

Do you know someone who seems to be kind, but gets upset when their kindness is not recognized?

Do you know someone who is gentle until they get out on the highway?

Are you beginning to get a picture of what self-control might look like?

Self-control is a young person’s discipline. It becomes more difficult as one gets older, having established patterns for the way they handle things. (I’m not saying it is impossible for an older person.) If you have not exercised the discipline of self-control in your younger years, it becomes extremely challenging to find it in your later years.

What area of your life do you need to exercise self-control?

What can you do to begin strengthening temperance in that area?

What one thing will you do today to move yourself in that direction?

Leave your comments below and help us all to better understand this most challenging fruit of a spiritual life.

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5 thoughts on “Self-Control: Fruit of a Spiritual Life

  1. I enjoyed your thoughts on temperance and the important relationship to spiritual fruits. I know that when I lack temperance, my entire life is impacted and it’s not too long before my spirit is depressed. I long for fruits but none can be found because I have lost my way and turned from God.

    To take care of our spirits as we are called to do as disciples of Christ yields the spiritual fruits you describe. I think sometimes we forget that they are related. Instead we attempt to get our fruit first. But the prerequisite to fruit is planting and nurturing of the seed that bears it.

    To do this, we can examine lives in relationships to three things: with God, with others, and ourselves to understand the changes we must make through temperance to become the best versions of ourselves.

    Thank you!


    1. That is a good word, my friend. It is too simple to try to “fix ourselves” by straining to produce ‘fruit’ in our lives. It is better, but much slower, to develop our relationships so that the fruit grows as a result of good nourishment.


      1. Yes the danger of man-ifestatons of fruit is that the “legal” part of us pursues (is at war with) us (Spirit) constantly. “Legal” wants us to focus our energies on production of fruit. The production is his end, not ours.
        This does not mean we wait for this fruit, but we respond to the spirit as He gets our attention. (as Bill C said at meeting today…..He makes us aware…… (“you gotta love that” how many ways can he get our attention:o) of those areas He is working on, our responsibility is to obey…or not! The consequences are ours.
        I personally believe that we don’t try to “attain fruit”, as Dale said……but we trust Our Father. Halelujah!
        Sometimes we can focus so much on getting close, we forget to live….He lives through us.


  2. I love this post and am working on these issues during Lent this year. My dear friend Cinhosa gave to me your blog address to help me with my struggle “with self-control.” Thank you Cinhosa. I love a “Momentary act of stupidity can ruin a lifetime a achievement.” How so often I have done this by my choices. Will be back to read. Thank you for post and again, Thank you Cinhosa. God Bless, SR


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