In my season of being “circumspect” it has been a season of having a good look at my character. Not my personality, that is just how I express myself, but my character. I told someone recently that “They choose to be the person they want to be,” and it applies to me too, my character is the person I choose to be. Developing character often involves developing that which does not come naturally to us.
Being an A-type person, I tend to be active, decisive and initiative-taking. I have goals, plans and I am usually busy with something. A season of low tide, is not something I enjoy, I want to run ahead and get going. As a result, I easily grow impatient with people, am quickly irritated and can get quite angry at inefficiency, obstacles and disappointment. Restraint does not come naturally to me.
Restraint is the measure or condition that keeps someone or something under control. It is also described as self control; self discipline; moderation; temperateness; non-indulgence and prudence (which I have come to understand as another word for circumspect). Restraint seems to be the ability to control the expression of one’s emotions and thoughts. Huge FAIL on my part.
Thankfully it did not come naturally to Peter either in the scene in the garden where he chopped off Malchus’ ear in what I think was an attempt by a fisherman, to chop off a head, with a sword he happened to have with him. Surrounded by hundreds of soldiers, armed to the teeth, he takes matters into his own hands, does not hold back, but madly goes ahead to prevent Jesus’ arrest. Jesus rebukes him by telling him to put away his sword and allow God’s plans to unfold. He is to exercise some restraint.
Restraint is having the self control that allows one to: master your moods; watch your words; restrain your reactions to people and circumstances around you; stick to a schedule; manage your resources (money) wisely; maintain good health (diet and exercise).
A difficult character trait to develop, but Peter did. It seems that Peter recognized and understood the importance of Jesus’ example of restraint later in his life. In 1 Peter 2:23 he teaches: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
Sometimes, developing restraint starts with abstinence. I have been doing a lot of abstinence lately, with my words, my time, my money, my actions etc. However, abstinence is not a long term solution, self control (restraint) is.
In thinking about restraint, I came across another Greek word, “sophrosyne,” (suh/fross/uh/nee). Originally an idea from Plato, it means a state of mind characterized by self control, moderation and a deep awareness of one’s true self. It is about: 1)knowing your strengths and weaknesses (what needs management); 2)not indulging in your weaknesses (your flesh) and 3)practicing contentment.
This has helped me explore developing restraint in my life, given me something to practice. But I also know that no amount of self effort or self management is ever going to develop restraint in me without the help of the Holy Spirit. Self control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Gal 5:22-23, it is developed as you co-operate with the Holy Spirit, his guidance, discipline and teaching. Peter developed restraint later in life because he had the Holy Spirit, it did not come naturally to him, but God developed it in him.
Thank you Father that self control can be developed by relying on You to grow it in me. But help me to co-operate with You as I work at knowing myself, managing my flesh and being content with all Your provide for my life. Build in me a character that has self control in every aspect of my life, in work, in family, in relationships. Thank you that the work on my character is not complete and that You are still shaping me into the person You want me to be.
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