What if Self Control is Really about Self-Love?
The fruit of self-control is often seen as a religious requirement that focuses primarily on our behaviors, achievements, rules, or self-imposed restrictions. These things are ok when one is healthy, but in one who has experienced legalism and spiritual abuse, it is tormenting. The legalistic version of self-control conditions its victims to believe they are worthy, holy enough, or spiritually mature when they do good, act good & be good. It is a counterfeit to the love of God and confirms the lie that we are loved & approved of by God or authority figures in our life based on our behavior.
Legalism & Religious Abuse
If you are waking up from a legalistic lifestyle, releasing yourself from shame may take a minute. Your identity has been attached to your earning, doing, and proving you are worthy enough. The critical judge has been the loudest voice. It often comes with obsessing on what we ‘coulda, woulda, or shoulda have done better, producing regret and shame. This religious view of self-control demands to conquer or punish ourselves when we fall short of expectations, it is critical and without grace.
Religion is rooted in deception, its goal is to keep us from knowing our identity & authority as a believer As a therapist, pastor, and former PK, the ones I’ve seen most impacted by this wrong view of ‘self-control’ are Christians who grew up in legalistic churches or cults. They are just discovering the truth that they are deeply loved.
Legalistic mindsets go with you to work & home!
The striving to do good, be good, earn, and gain approval can cultivate an “I’m submitted and committed” mindset often extending stays in abusive situations. People often go from spiritual abuse into jobs and relationships that are also controlling not realizing they were conditioned to stay. ‘Religious ideas of Self-control’ can be devastating to self-worth often creating self-imposed barriers in relationships with God, self, and others.’ Religiosity in the church tells us to “check our humanity at the door before entering.’ Be holy, clean, repented up, and looking sharp, this lie makes the work of the cross meaningless.
The truth about Self-Control
I invite you to see the fruit of self-control as being that is seeded by love, not control. Friends, there was, is, and never will be anything about Jesus that is rooted or seeded in control. Control is not in His character, nature, or heart. John 14 says, ‘loving Me empowers you to obey My voice.’ As I read that, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper back to me – “Charla, the more you know you are deeply loved by me, the easier it is to obey me. Sin consciousness decreases supernaturally and the old familiar mindsets fall away in the presence of being loved. There is a settling in our spirits that comes from knowing we are seen known and loved by him.”
I contend that the fruit of self-control is really about loving ourselves well. This means understanding our needs, being kind to ourselves, and recognizing that His love is not based on our behaviors. We have to reject what has been our familiar go-to; but the truth is that the more you know you are loved unconditionally, the easier it gets. We instinctually tend to take care of what we love; so give yourself some love.
The Healing Process?
If God embraces our humanity, why shouldn’t we? Healthy self-control takes responsibility for the decisions we make while extending grace for our weaknesses. It means recognizing that you are worthy of love and respect even when you make mistakes. Choosing to forgive instead of punishing yourself when you mess up. The more you know you are loved, you will recognize that your behavior does not define you; it is only part of your story.
Dr. Cloud says “healthy boundaries are fences with swinging gates, not walls”. Healthy self-control involves setting boundaries with yourself and others without feeling guilty or ashamed. It affords you the power to step away from unhealthy relationships or a package of Cheetos. You get to discern & choose what is good for you and what is not. Our brains will become mindful when making choices, recognizing when things feel out of balance so we can permit ourselves to pull back or pivot. It takes practice and patience when you’ve been conditioned by legalism.
Give yourself permission to embrace healthier choices that honor your mind, body, soul, and spirit and allow you to live full lives, free from guilt or shame, even when you slip up or fall into an unhealthy habit. We can learn how to practice self-love through self-control while taking care of ourselves and loving who we are in each moment along the way!
Learn to ask yourself questions in the midst of decision makings, cravings or relationships. Does this bring me peace? Will this add to my life? Do the ones around me love me? Are they for me? How will I feel tomorrow about right now? Holy Spirit, what is the truth? Love yourself enough to say YES to what is good for you. Love yourself enough to say NO to what is not good for you.
If you have experienced spiritual abuse or struggle with legalistic mindsets, we are here to help. This world longs for you to come alive to your intended original design! Charla@originaldesignconsulting.com