Several years back, I remember telling a good friend that I admired the way he could decide how he was going to feel about things and then will himself to feel that way. (Well, I told him I admired it. Truth be told, I was torn between envy and irritation over his possession of that trait for reasons of my own that had to do with each of our core beliefs regarding self-control at the expense of authenticity and further complicated by a long standing undercurrent of rivalry -among other things- that had always run between us. But that’s a story of its own, so let’s not get off-track) What I know now that I wish I’d learned sooner was that this gift of mind and thought control was not a personality trait at all, but instead, a fruit of the spirit that each of us is inherently blessed with, stemming from the fruit of self-control. I had always believed my self-control to be lacking in certain areas, and in retrospect, realize that I used that belief to fuel many a rationalization regarding decisions made in poor judgment. Once I was made aware that self-control was something I already possessed, it was laid on my heart that it was time for the excuses to stop and for the work to begin. It’s one thing to continue negative behaviors before you are convicted by knowledge of their existence, but quite another to continue them once your eyes have been opened. Do not be overwhelmed by this truth. Change is not expected to come overnight, but in very small steps over time. How much time? You will not be given that answer, so you must make peace with not knowing. This is excruciating for some of us, but necessary. Make peace with not knowing every answer. I learned from Joyce Meyer to say it over and over again out loud until it doesn’t sting: “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW!!” Needing to know it all is not a peaceful way to live. And peace is the goal I’m aiming for.
With the discovery that self-control was already in my possession, it now became a matter of accessing it. I chose to think of it the same way I thought of my other muscles. I study how to best develop it and I buckle down and do the work that it takes to build it. As much as I love flexing my guns, there is nothing like the peace that comes from flexing my self-control muscle, which allows me to keep my mouth shut when I’d like not to, choose the thoughts I allow myself to think, acknowledge that feelings are feelings and often not truths and not be led by them and yes, decide how I’m going to feel about something and will myself to feel that way by choosing my thoughts carefully, behave accordingly, and let the feelings align with that thinking and behavior instead of the other way around. You’ve got that power too. How much more time do you want to pass before you start using it?