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Gentle Virtues


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04/01/2009 - Self-Control

By Tami Watts

When I was in high school, I took an Accounting class. For one of my assignments, my teacher instructed me to record my pretend checks under the "Liabilities" column and my pretend deposits under the column marked "Assets". Once I was finished, he double-checked my work.

Long ago accountants did not have my teacher to double-check their accounting. Instead they each had a counter-register to use. In French, a counter-register was called a "controlle". It came from two words: "contre" meaning "counter or against" and "rolle" meaning "roll or list". A "controlle" or counter-register was a book that helped an accountant check his figures against it and make any necessary corrections. This word, "controlle", is the root word for self-control.

In The McGraw-Hill Children's Dictionary, self-control is defined as "control of one's feelings or behavior". With self-control, our shifting feelings and behavior are not in control, we are! We manage them. They do not manage us.

Let's look at that definition again…"control of one's feelings or behavior". It is not about us controlling others. That is self-centeredness. Self-control is about controlling ourselves.

In order to be self-controlled, we must have a genuine concern for people and be looking out for their well being, not just our own. Having this mindset, we will have the initiative to exercise self-control and our lives will show it. Spiteful words spoken in haste, attempts to get even, strong arming to get our way and waiting with rudeness will not define us. We will be defined by outstanding virtues that will in turn cause us to stand out as people who can be trusted, respected, and promoted.

Self-control is possible for us to have, even if it has not been clearly modeled in our lives. Here is how we can acquire and maintain such a strength.

The answer is found in self-control's root word, "controlle", the book that helped accountants give an accurate account of their assets and liabilities. We have our own assets and liabilities in which to be accountable. Not all of them are financial ones. The things we say, the things we do and the attitudes we allow ourselves to have, become either assets or liabilities. They either add to or take from our relationships, self-respect, and countenance.

Each of us can have our own mental counter-register to use with diligence. With it, we can double-check our next potential comment, action, or attitude against it and make any necessary corrections before we expend our energy. This way we will have fewer liabilities and far more assets. By taking such responsible measures, our lives will not be bankrupt but rich in what is truly lasting.

With self-control we will be liable without being a costly liability. We won't be taxing to our families, friends and society. Instead, we will be a tremendous asset.

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