Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I thought it was almost mean. Jim could put a pancake on our dog Sally’s nose and she wouldn’t eat it until he said, “OK”. Then he took it one step further by putting it in her mouth and telling her to wait. And she would. Sometimes drool would drip, but she wouldn’t move until she was told to. No wonder law enforcement departments use dogs.

Their discipline shames us. Why then, if a dog has that much self control, do I struggle to just cut back to one cup of coffee in the morning. Probably because no one claps and cheers when I perform such an amazing feat. I’m so proud when I don’t pour a second cup, but the next day it’s almost tougher to resist.

Douglas McKenna, former director of Microsoft’s Leadership Development is quoted saying, “Here’s a secret about self-control: It works like a muscle. With each use, that muscle temporarily loses some strength, leaving you with reduced capacity to handle yourself if the next self-control challenge pops up too soon.”

It’s like running into an angry dog when you’re out on a jog. Your muscles and tired from working so hard, but you have to find the energy to throw rocks or climb a tree. I think that just means we are more susceptible to be tempted when we’re worn down.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we Americans don’t have a handle on self-control. Gallup’s latest findings show 63% of Americans are overweight, consumer debit is at an all time high, and violence on the streets and even in the home is disturbing. Granted other factors play in to these complicated scenarios, but when it’s unwrapped discipline and self control are in the center.

Why is it self control seems to be no problem for some and a real struggle for others? Studies have shown those with high levels of self control are actually using two parts of their brain instead of just one. Certainly temperament plays into the equation too. I feel at times I have a total brain malfunction when I know better, but give in anyway.

We all operate on such impulse. I have decided if I slow down just a bit and think before I say what I really want to say, grab the fast food, or buy the amazing bargain I really don’t need, it would help. I also know now if I make it past the first temptation, that my discipline muscle will be tired and I’ll have to grit my teeth and throw rocks the next go around. Clapping and cheering might help too.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled ...”
~1 Peter 1:13

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