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Self-Control: The Boundary Between Virtue and Vice

MsDora, writes on moral integrity, especially for women, and encourages appreciation for the men in their lives.

Self-control is the power to control one's actions, impulses, or emotions.

Self-control is the power to control one's actions, impulses, or emotions.

“Did I do that?” the sitcom character Steve Urkel frequently asked in Family Matters (1989-1998). Despite his super intelligence and his intense desire to earn Laura’s love, he proved to be a nuisance. Because he could not control his actions, his good intentions usually resulted in disaster.

“Self-control is the power to control one's actions, impulses, or emotions," according to Merriam-Webster. It adds that toddlers have very little self-control. Therefore, when children grow into young adults, when they become capable of setting goals, and making plans to achieve those goals, they are obligated to grow in self-control.

Friends who decide to date exclusively are expected to set goals. Some are spoken—to know each other better, to travel together to a certain place on a certain date, and so on. Marriage, though not mentioned at the start, may be on the agenda. Here are four features of the relationship which can enhance the relationship; but without self-control can destroy it.

  • (1) Individuality
  • (2) Kindness
  • (3) Trust
  • (4) Passion
It is all right to affirm, “I like who I am."

It is all right to affirm, “I like who I am."

1. Individuality

We are encouraged to value our self-worth and not allow anyone to change our opinion of who we are. Each of us is designed with a unique blend of skills and talents for a specific purpose. It is all right to affirm, “I like who I am."

However, individuality gets out of control when we:

  • make statements like “This is just the way I am,” with a spirit of arrogance;
  • insist that the way we are is the way everyone should be;
  • demonstrate insensitivity instead of trying to understand the other person;
  • try to manipulate the other person into doing what we want him or her to do.

Everyone does not have to be our personality type in order to be lovable. In the same way that we want to maintain our individuality, allow the other person to maintain his or hers. Self-control allows us to respect the other person. We can appreciate who we are while admiring the differences in other people.

2. Kindness

Kindness is a by-product of love. People who care for each other are expected to offer and accept it. This makes it difficult to explain why caution may be necessary.

Givers give without an ulterior motive. Recipients accept the kindness at face value, without bartering safety and dignity.

In the Purity Circle Workbook, there is a story about a girl named Sandra who thought that kindness was an invitation to be physically intimate. At the end of a four-week summer vacation and the last date with the young man she met, she put her arm around his neck and held his arm around her waist as they walked through the theme park. She tried to sit on his lap as the attendant loaded the roller coaster. She thought she was repaying his kindness and affection; he thought she lacked self-control. She ruined her chances of continuing the friendship.

In the event that a gift seems inappropriate—too extravagant, too personal—refuse it just as kindly as it is presented. Refusal is not disrespect. On the other hand, be very gracious and appreciative on the receipt of a kind gesture.

3. Trust

The more we interact, the more we learn to trust each other. The best proof of trust during dating is the integrity of one's word. Practice self-control instead of just saying what comes to mind. Consider the following questions:

  • Wouldn’t it be responsible to say why you cannot make a promise rather than make a promise you doubt you can fulfill?
  • Having made a promise, wouldn’t it be honorable to make the effort to see it come true?
  • Are you aware that when trust is violated, it is difficult to rebuild?
  • Is controlling your tongue, or controlling the desire to make an impression worth the effort to maintain a friendship?

Be the trustworthy friend that you want to have. Inspire trust in the other person, and build your relationship on mutual dependability. Don't say "I love you," if you have doubts; and if you believe that the other person is pretending, say how your feel rather than trust blindly. "Trust, but verify." (Ronald Reagan)

Trust inspires trust.

Trust inspires trust.

4. Passion

Passion is defined as a strong feeling or emotion or an intense desire. Who wants to be in a passionless relationship? It is exciting to discover that the person you like, likes you. When two lovers see each other, they both feel an electric surge going up and down their spines. They wonder what new thrills would come from abandoning themselves to physical intimacy.

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Here is the truth about passion:

  • Passion between two people affirms that they are alive and capable of enjoying each other.
  • It proves that the testosterone in the male and the estrogen in the female are at healthy levels.
  • It provides an opportunity to exercise choice: give in to lustful passion or wait for that special someone who makes a commitment.
  • Passion creates urges which cannot always be satisfied, but can always be controlled.

Passion in good measure adds excitement to the relationship. Passion out of control may begin to look and feel like abuse.

And three final statements about self-control:

  • Self-control is the boundary between virtue and vice.
  • Self-control teaches patience. "Love is patient" (1 Corinthians 13:4).
  • Self-control in dating increases the likelihood of fidelity during marriage.

© 2011 Dora Weithers


Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 15, 2015:

Thanks, Hari. You say so much in your short poem; we are on the same page here.

Hari Prasad S from Bangalore on September 15, 2015:

Very nice. Well written.

Check my poem 'desire'.

- Hari

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 03, 2012:

Thanks DawneMars. Your comment is very encouraging. Also read your good writing on humanism. A pleasure!

DAWNEMARS from The Edge of a Forest in Europe on April 03, 2012:

What an empowering hub! Great writing here. Thanks for sharing this with us. Voted up!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 15, 2011:

Thanks to you, homesteadbound and denise for your kind comments. They are very encouraging to me.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on October 15, 2011:

I like the way you explain things so simply, MsDora. You have a very keen understanding of the relationship between man and woman. Setting boundaries through the exercise of self-control is what makes love beautiful and its expression worth waiting for.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on October 15, 2011:

Very good advice. In our society we are so in a hurry that many do not take the time to savor the journey.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 14, 2011:

Thanks, Husky, for your encouraging comments.

Husky1970 on October 14, 2011:

What words of wisdom. MsDora! Your advice would strengthen any relationship. Well written! Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 14, 2011:

Dave, I appreciate your input. Well said, and thank you.

Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on October 14, 2011:

With every good quality that one has or tries to have, there is a very slim line between that quality and the reverse of it. Perception how one is perseived to be is the boundry line that we all tread.

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