Self-Control Is Proof of Wisdom
ANY person who is in his right mind takes satisfaction in being wise. He does not want to be a fool. Among the ways he can show that he is truly wise is by exercising self-control. As the proverb says: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.”—Prov. 29:11.
To exercise self-control, however, is not easy. It is not the line of least resistance. That is why there is so little of it in evidence today. Conditions today call to mind the days before the Deluge, regarding which we are told that “the badness of man was abundant in the earth” and that “the earth became filled with violence.”—Gen. 6:5, 11.
In fact, Jesus Christ prophesied that as it was back in the days of Noah so the days of “the presence of the Son of man,” where we now are, will be. In the same vein the apostle Paul foretold that “in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be . . . without self-control.” All of which makes it even harder to exercise self-control.—Matt. 24:37-39; 2 Tim. 3:1-3.
It would be difficult to overstate the case for self-control as being proof of wisdom. “As a city broken through, without a wall, is the man that has no restraint for his spirit.” (Prov. 25:28) Every waking moment, even to some extent our sleeping moments, all our thoughts and feelings, all our words and actions come within the purvue of self-control. If we could but clearly, prominently and indelibly impress upon our minds that self-control is proof of wisdom, it would greatly help us in times of stress or temptation. Consider a few examples.
Have you ever been reprimanded or severely rebuked by a superior, and that, perhaps, before others? What was your first impulse? Was it not to try to vindicate yourself, perhaps with hasty, ill-advised speech? Yet that would only have made matters worse. Wisely we are counseled: “If the spirit of a ruler should mount up against you, do not leave your own place, for calmness itself allays great sins.” Yes, “an answer, when mild, turns away rage.” It takes real self-control to keep your place and to answer with mildness the one who manifests rage, but it is the only wise course, for it smooths out difficulties and makes for peaceful relations.—Eccl. 10:4; Prov. 15:1.
Why, just on general principles it is wise to exercise self-control as to one’s words, especially if one is inclined to be talkative: “The foolish one speaks many words.” “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” “Anyone holding back his sayings is possessed of knowledge . . . even anyone foolish, when keeping silent, will be regarded as wise.”—Eccl. 10:14; Prov. 10:19; 17:27, 28.
Then there is the matter of self-control in eating and drinking. Failure to discipline oneself at the table results in overweight, which is America’s No. 1 health problem, leading to chronic degenerative diseases, chief of which is cardiovascular disease or “heart trouble.” And how many homes have been broken up, how many careers ruined, how much sickness, all because of lack of self-control in “drinking”! It is even as God’s Word says: “Who has woe? . . . Who has concern? . . . Those staying a long time with the wine.” “Wine is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise.” In other words, if you lack self-control these things will make a fool out of you.—Prov. 23:29, 30; 20:1.
Do you own an auto? Then you will also want to exercise self-control in driving it. Year after year auto accidents take thousands of lives and maim millions. In 1962, in West Germany alone, 14,213 lost their lives in traffic accidents and 413,457 were injured. Most recent figures for other countries are 38,000 fatalities for the United States, 9,000 for Italy and 7,000 for Great Britain, with twenty to thirty times as many injuries. According to accident insurance companies, speeding, liquor, daydreaming, drowsiness and negligence are chiefly responsible for these accidents. And what are these but so many instances of lack of self-control?
To mention just one more common area where self-control is proof of wisdom, there is the matter of relations between the sexes. Not so long ago psychologists ridiculed the idea of chastity before marriage, but now we read such statements as these: “No sociological study has ever shown that premarital intercourse, or adultery, makes for happier marriage.” “Can anything on the pleasure side of pre-marital sex equal the suffering if the girl becomes pregnant?” “Ten million people in the United States now have or have had syphilis and the figure for gonorrhea is twice as large.”—Love and Marriage, Magoun.
Nor to be overlooked, we are now told, is the fact that self-control is also necessary within the marital relation, and the best training for this is self-control before marriage. For Christians there are the still more impelling reasons of clear conscience and association with the Christian community to underscore the wisdom of self-control in this regard, “for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”—Heb. 13:4.
Since self-control is proof of wisdom, enlist all the aids you can toward exercising it. Among such is “the fear of Jehovah,” which truly “is the beginning of wisdom.” One reason for this is that “the fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” In turn, prayer is an aid to walking in the fear of Jehovah.—Ps. 111:10; Prov. 8:13.
Another aid is humility. A humble person does not chafe against the restrictions that wisdom puts upon his freedom; he recognizes that by the very nature of things all freedom must be relative. Still another aid is empathy; being able to put ourselves in the place of others will enable us to be patient with them.
Self-control is not easy, but it is worth the effort, for it is proof of wisdom, and who does not want to be wise?