It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but there will be no silent night until finals are finished. But before we all head home for Christmas, consider the holiday. A time of pointing at magazines, or online ads, and saying, “I want that.”
It doesn’t need to be selfish; we have simply grown up asking and, often, receiving Christmas gifts, from our two front teeth to hippopotamuses. However, this time of year, from Thanksgiving to the New Year, the question of self-control comes sharply into focus.
Do you want another helping of pumpkin pie? No second thought required. Should I sleep in till noon over break? Too late, it’s already 2 p.m. Humans can be notoriously undisciplined. In the words of that great American social critic Ariana Grande, “I see it. I like it. I want it. I got it.”
Often times our train of thought follows this exact pattern. But the things of life don’t come free to us. Building anything, including the person you should or want to be, takes effort and time.
So this Christmas, commit to waking up every day at 6 a.m., taking a morning jog, reading Scripture for two hours and not binging that Netflix show. Or take a more moderate approach, which is what we would recommend. Take the time over break to purposefully be controlled, to resist the desire to press the “Continue Watching” button or to let the TV press the button for you.
Don’t feel the need to schedule every single second of your break, but at least once, reign yourself in and purposefully resist your impulse. Building self-control is a valuable skill. College forces us to monitor our actions, and entering the post-university will require more self-control yet.
A breath of heat hits your face as your mittened hand removes a pan of sugar cookies from the oven. Yes, you snuck some cookie dough while everyone’s backs were turned. Sneaky you. But now the cookies are warm and perfect. So take one and grab some milk. Enjoy.
When the urge comes to take 10 more though, don’t. Instead, remember this editorial and decide that this is your moment of self-control. After all the lights you hung and stockings you stuffed, you have the power.
Some might say, what’s the point? “I have self-control at college, assignments turned in on time with A’s as a result,” you say. “Why shouldn’t I have 15.2 sugar cookies?”
While a poor example, the point is the ability you receive to continue saying “no” to your stream-of-conscious desires. Like a bacterium that becomes resistant to a pesticide, you become resistant to your desires.
Perhaps you could take a break from social media for, gasp, a week. Or before you make that quick stop into Starbucks for another afternoon drink, keep on driving.
Find an action that you do impulsively or frequently, and choose to take a break from it. Try something new. Go on a walk, or better yet, walk your dog, who would probably love to leave the house.
Paul states in Romans “that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do.” By tackling the task of saying “no” to sugar cookies—or whatever you decide to have self-control over—you can build a routine of denying yourself.
Despite the popular book by the same name, you cannot simply think and grow rich. You must work at it. Similarly, you cannot sit down one day and tackle a problem you’ve said “yes” to for years. By learning to have impulse control toward something you enjoy, sugar cookies, you can better prepare to deny yourself during situations of higher consequence.
So enjoy your holly, jolly Christmas, dance around the Christmas tree, have a white or blue Christmas and choose to consciously deny yourself just once.