The abiilty to control ones emotions, physical actions, and spoken or written words, especially in difficult or stressful situations.


The very concept of “self-control” implies a battle between a divided self. It implies that our “self” produces desires we should not satisfy but instead control. Jesus says we should deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23). Every day our “self” produces desires that should be denied or controlled.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.2 Timothy 1:7

Skilled Characteristics

  • Thinks

    Thinks before one speaks or acts

  • Control

    Keeps control of one’s temper and behaviors – stays calm under pressure

  • Good Choices

    Makes rational and healthy decisions, even in difficult or high-presure situations

  • Follows-Through

    Follows through on one’s promises and commitments, despite boredom or disliking the work

  • Real

    Behaves appropriately, even when no one is looking

“Never do something permanently foolish just because you are temporarily upset.”

– Unknown

Unskilled Characteristics

  • Impulsive

    Reacts quickly to situations without thinking

  • Gratification

    Prioritizes short-term gratification over long-term benefits

  • Lacks Willpower

    Allows feelings or desires to control one’s actions

  • Addict

    Is prone to addictions

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power NOT to do.”

– Aristotle

Causes of Weakness

  • Sleep

    Lack of sleep affects our ability to make rational decisions

  • Diet

    Hunger or not eating a well-balanced diet can reduce our brain’s abiity to process information logically and respond rationally

  • Triggers

    Things in one’s environment that triggers or reminds oneself to take an unwanted action

  • Selfishness

    Caring more about the present moment than the future

  • Loss of Hope

    Hopeless feelings about one’s future or about one’s value, worth or ability

“The difference between want and need is self-control.”

– Unknown


Review the simple application steps below and choose 1 or 2 things you can do to spur yourself on to further growth.

  • Reflect

    REFLECT: Think about the areas of your life where you struggle with self-control. The first step in overcoming a problem is to identify the problem and name it. Acknowledge those areas of difficulty in your life and ask your closest friends or spouse to help to hold you accountable for improving in those areas.

  • Set Goals

    SET GOALS: Set realistic goals for yourself. Set daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals, and beyond. Write those goals down and review them every day to help guide you in making right choices that are in alignment with your priorities.

  • Reward Yourself

    REWARD YOURSELF: Give yourself a reward or a treat every time you are successful in overcoming situations where you commonly struggle with self-control.

  • Face Feelings

    FACE FEELINGS: Deal with your emotions that are leading you to lose your self-control. What are your triggers? Why do they trigger you? Talk to a trusted friend or counselor who can help you to overcome your anger or addiction issues.

  • Exercise and Diet

    EXERCISE AND DIET: Make sure you are getting sufficient sleep and exercise. Both sleep and exercise help to reduce stress levels. If you’re feeling stressed, try taking a break and getting a short bit of exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block.

  • Think Big

    THINK BIG: When you are close to losing your self-control, try to think about the bigger picture, the end goals, and the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes getting away from the tiny details of the moment and seeing the bigger picture can reduce frustration or temptation.

  • Practice

    PRACTICE: Self control problems often relate to bad habits we have formed. The simplest way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice. The more often you do the RIGHT thing, the more likely you will make that right thing a habit.

  • Distractions

    DISTRACTIONS: Find things to distract you from the areas in your life where you lack self-control.

  • Remove

    REMOVE: Remove things from your life that cause you to stumble into bad habits and demonstrate poor self-control.

  • Fear

    FEAR: Think about the worst-case scenario of your poor self-control and use that as a motivation to stop. Keep reminding yourself.