Monday, April 21, 2008

dieting and gluttony (5f) Jerry Bridges on self-control

Wondering what self-control around food looks like in practice?

Here's some helpful guidelines about how to be self-controlled in our eating from Jerry Bridges' Respectable Sins (an insightful look at "forgotten" sins like pride and selfishness).

I found his definition of self-control particularly helpful, and I couldn't agree more that lack of self-control in one area can lessen self-control in more important areas. Again, the real issue is not "How much ice-cream do I eat?" but "Does my eating control me?"
"A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls" (Proverbs 25:28). ... [A] person without self-control is vulnerable to all kinds of temptations. ...

What is self-control? It is a governance or prudent control of one's desires, cravings, impulses, emotions, and passions. It is saying no when we should say no. It is moderation in legitimate desires and activities, and absolute restraint in areas that are clearly sinful. ...

[S]elf-control needs to be exercised in ... eating and drinking. Let me say right away that I am not singling out those who have a so-called "weight problem." That may or may not be due to a lack of self-control. One of the most self-controlled men I have ever known struggled with his weight all his adult life. On the other hand, some who can eat what they please without gaining weight may, because of that fact, fail to exercise self-control in their eating and drinking.

What I am addressing is the tendency to continually give in to our desires for certain foods or drinks. ... I think of my own craving for ice cream years ago when I would have a dish of it at dinner and another at bed-time. ... A seemingly benign practice greatly weakened my self-control in other more critical areas. I learned that we cannot pick and choose the areas of life in which we will exercise self-control.

One of the ways we can exercise self-control is by removing or getting away from whatever tempts us to indulge our desires. In the case of the ice cream, I asked my wife to no longer keep it regularly in the freezer. Instead, we now buy it for specific occasions. Even though I made that decision more than thirty years ago, I still have to exercise self-control. Recently I was on my way to mail a package at a contract post office that is located in an ice cream shop. As I drove, I began to think about having a dish of ice cream. As I wrestled with that strong desire, I concluded that it was a time when I needed to say "no" to myself just for the purpose of keeping that desire under control.

I'm not trying to lay a guilt trip on those who enjoy ice cream or soda pop, or even those who go to Starbucks every day for their favourite coffee drink. What I am addressing is our lack of self-control - a tendency to indulge our desires so that they control us, instead of our controlling those desires.
My highlights; this quote is from Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, pp.109-114.

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