The Mastery of Self

Originally published Thursday, 21 July 2022.

Many a time when we hear the word self-control, we think of how we can temper ourselves or fix something within that is spiraling into chaos.  We think of the worldly perspective of self-control:

“Behave yourself.”

“Girl, show some restraint.”  

“Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

Although these worldly perspectives are laced with good intentions, I have a feeling this is not what Paul spoke of in Galatians 5:22-23.  Paul mentioned self-control as the last mentioned element of the fruit of the Spirit. I don’t believe this was a coincidence, but one of the pinnacle moments in his speaking to Galatia. The Greek word for self-control is egkrateia which means temperance, the virtue of one who has command or mastery over one’s own behavior.

Ugh! I don’t even think I can count how many times I have forgotten to show mastery or command over my own behavior!  Muttering under my breath, the thoughts that swirl in my brain, and the unruly things that lash from my tongue are evidence enough that I am not always in control of myself. It is saddening to confess how many occasions I relinquished mastery over my own life into the flare ups of my flesh.

But there is beauty wafting behind our inability to control ourselves.  Instead of expecting to be perfect, I have been given the right as a child of God to show up at the feet of Jesus each time I screw up.  I know that Jesus was tempted to sin in every way that I have been tempted (Hebrews 4:15), but He didn’t take hold of it in the ways I have.  His love for me translates into his perfection trumping my imperfection.  I will never measure up, and there is freedom in knowing I don’t have to.

I also believe that Paul chose self-control as the last expression of the fruit of the Spirit because it is so important in our walk with Jesus.  I am called to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Instead of feeling the enormous weight and pressure to always be in control, I can instead pause, think before I speak or act, and ask God to help me show His character.  It is through Christ’s power in me that I can govern my own behavior. There will be numerous occasions presented every day in which I will have to take my thoughts captive and give them up to God.  And you know what? I think that’s the whole point. It draws us to Him.

We are to continually be in God’s presence, in constant communication with Him, for it is there we are strengthened. There His Spirit reminds us of His lovejoypeacepatiencekindnessgoodnessfaithfulnessgentleness, and self-control. He wants us to come to Him at all times saying, “I can’t do this on my own; I need you God. By your strength alone.”

Readers, Where is God offering you His strength today?


Sarah Dohman

Sarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globetrotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5K races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah on Instagram.