Thoughts on Self-Control

Source: Brian Resnick, "The Myth of Self-Control," Vox, 24 November 2016.

Source: W. Hofmann, "Everyday temptations: an experience sampling study of desire, conflict, and self-control," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, June 2012, 102(6):1318-35.

The author doesn't believe self-control exists, yet oddly, he only proves that his definition of self-control is inaccurate. There is a strong attempt to excuse giving into temptation, but he also manages to give correct advice on how to deal with temptation.

The Bible advocates learning self-control (Galatians 5:23; II Timothy 3:3; II Peter 1:6).

Basically, the argument is that brute force will-power against temptation isn't often successful. "But if, for example, the change is to eat fewer sweets, and then you find yourself in front of a pile of cookies, researchers say the pile of cookies has already won."


"The people who were the best at self-control — the ones who most readily agreed to survey questions like “I am good at resisting temptations” — reported fewer temptations throughout the study period."

"The students who exerted more self-control were not more successful in accomplishing their goals. It was the students who experienced fewer temptations overall who were more successful ..."

"Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on" (Proverbs 4:14-15).


"People who are better at self-control actually enjoy the activities some of us resist — like eating healthy, studying, or exercising."

"'Mischel has consistently found that the crucial factor in delaying gratification is the ability to change your perception of the object or action you want to resist,' the New Yorker reported in 2014. That means kids who avoided eating the first marshmallow would find ways not to look at the candy, or imagine it as something else. 'The really good dieter wouldn’t buy a cupcake,' Fujita explains. 'They wouldn’t have passed in front of a bakery; when they saw the cupcake, they would have figured out a way to say yuck instead of yum; they might have an automatic reaction of moving away instead of moving close.'”

"But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust" (James 1:14).


"'People who are good at self-control … seem to be structuring their lives in a way to avoid having to make a self-control decision in the first place,' Galla tells me. And structuring your life is a skill. People who do the same activity — like running or meditating — at the same time each day have an easier time accomplishing their goals, he says. Not because of their willpower, but because the routine makes it easier."

"No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother" (I John 3:9-10).


Self-control is also easier for people focused on long-term rewards instead of short-term rewards.

"The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it" (Proverbs 22:3).

"Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (I Corinthians 9:25).

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