Monday, September 15, 2008

online meanderings: self-control and shopping

The topic of the moment seems to be self-control.

Not necessarily a popular topic! And what exactly does it mean? The Greek word sophron, often translated "self-control" in Titus 2:3-5, means level-headed, discrete, prudent, sober, sensible, sound minded, and thoughtful.*

Jerry Bridges puts it well:
Self-control is the exercise of inner strength, under the direction of sound judgement, that enables us to do, think, and say the things that are pleasing to God.
Last Thursday, I read Nicole's Equip Books post about the chapter on self-control in Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal. And last weekend, as I continue working my way through Mahaney's talk series on Titus 2:3-5, I listened to her talk on self-control.

It gave me a timely kick in the pants. I think we sometimes fail to call sin "sin". It becomes so very familiar to us, and the effort to fight it just seems too hard. I think I've given up a bit on the battle with gluttony; my decision to rise early to pray has only just resurfaced after a run of winter illnesses; and the struggle for self-control in my blogging and computer use is a continual battle.

But you'll notice, in Nicole's post and the comments, that there was some concern that Carolyn Mahaney didn't address self-control and shopping in her book, although she does touch on it in her talk. (Of course, there are many other areas demanding self-control - gossip, bossiness, spiritual disciplines, etc. - and she couldn't cover them all.)

Long-term readers of this blog may recall my early posts on shopping. One of my very first posts was the attack of the killer credit card, followed by the attack of the killer credit card continues, and concluded with the joy of Christmas (shopping). In June this year, reflecting on the battle, I shared 15 lessons I've learnt about self-control.

Well, I went shopping the other day. And I found that instead of filling me with temptation, the glut of products displayed on hundreds of shelves, enticingly arranged to attract wealthy first-worlders and their over-indulged children, filled me with repulsion. Which goes to show, in negative as well as positive ways, how the practice of self-control transforms our way of seeing.

Of course, now I have to struggle with the opposite temptation: to put off trips to the shops indefinitely, way past the point where my children need new socks and school pants. But I've learnt to take a detailed list on my bi-annual trips to the shops for children's clothes, and I'm even learning to stick to it.

Let's not overstate things. I still lose many a struggle with my conscience when I'm facing yet another stand of "cheap" stocking fillers at the supermarket (can't avoid supermarket shopping, can you?!). And buying books on the internet has led to a few major downfalls.

I'm still a work in progress: but there's hope, because God is the one working in me. I hold on to his promise, that "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).

* In the small print in this post on self-control, you'll find my explanation of the various words translated "self-control" in the New Testament.


Jacinta said...

Interesting..! I always prefer that online shopping is a fun and enjoyable experience but need to be done with 100% cautious.

mattnbec said...

We have to do some serious budgetting for the coming year or so. Thanks for the timely thoughts on shopping and self control. Thanks also for recounting your struggles with the credit card. Glad God has worked in this area of your life and used what you've learned to serve others too.