Skip to main content

We are often dissatisfied, suspicious and annoyed when others fail to live up to our expectations or their commitments. We view co-workers as slackers, untrustworthy, lazy or incompetent. We may view our children as rebellious. We even look at those closest to us questioning their motives. Most often, the root of “their problem” isn’t them, it’s their failure to meet “our expectations.”

We can’t control the actions, decisions or behaviors of others. We aren’t ill intended; we just want others to meet our expectations, do their fair share. But, author, Adam Phillips (2024) tells us that:

 “when we try to force our own desires or opinions onto someone else, we are essentially saying that our way is more important than theirs. This can lead to conflict, resentment, and ultimately damage relationships. The Bible teaches us that each person has been given the gift of free will by God. This means that every individual has the right to make their own choices, even if those decisions go against what we would choose for them.”

Our natural response is to get “them” to live up to their commitment. We express our disgust, or dissatisfaction. We highlight the inconvenience, the cost or time that it caused us, and our disappointment. We sometimes use shame, guilt or manipulation to get our way or impose our will. We may be able to influence the actions, behaviors, and decisions of others, but we can’t control them. However, we can control our expectations and, more importantly, our response.

Self-control isn’t some magical power. We, like the athlete, develop it through exercise and repetition. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NLT) describes it this way:

“I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.
Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be
disqualified. “

The Bible teaches that we exercise self-control by thinking before speaking (Proverbs 15:24); reflect before acting (Proverbs 13:16); and through moderation. We also exercise self-control by restricting negative and destructive behaviors like combating the urge to overeat, overspend, gamble or anything that moves us away from leading like Jesus.

Author and Life Coach, Trisha Taylor, says Jesus demonstrated self-control by modeling two qualities when dealing with conflict.  First, He defined himself. Jesus drew boundaries about who He was and what He would or would not do. Secondly, He would allow others to define themselves.

“He never controlled or manipulated others to agree; instead, he asked questions and invited others into conversation to help them see where they stood in relation to him.

For our part, rather than define ourselves and allow others to do the same, we often resort instead to blaming, name-calling, or controlling. It’s easier to focus on how others are wrong and try to persuade or coerce them to change than it is to say, with clarity and courage, what is the case for us.”

How do we learn and practice the kind of self-control that Jesus demonstrates? We need a trainer or coach, just like the athlete. Fortunately, we are hard-wired and have one readily available within us, the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7 (NLT) tells us:

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

While we may experience and live out our faith differently there are common steps we can take. The first step is to accept that we can’t do it on our own. You may know this as “surrendering to God’s will.”

“God has a plan for our lives, and surrendering to Him means we set aside our own plans and eagerly seek His.” (

Secondly, renew your mind through prayer. Jesus demonstrates the use of prayer to seek God’s wisdom. Jesus began everyday with prayer (Mark 1:35). When we exercise our prayer life, God’s promise is simple:

“I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.”

Thirdly, we must let go of the need to control. Christian rapper and musician, Andy Mineo, describes the battle to gain self-control as “a Chrisitan paradox.” He states:

“Here is the paradox of Christian living. We must give up control of
self to gain self-control.”

Finally, the scariest but most important thing is having complete faith and trust in God. It is not in our human nature to “trust what we can’t see.” But faith bridges the gap between what we can see and what we hope for (Hebrews 11:1). When we faithfully pursue God’s will instead of our own, we open ourselves to receive God’s blessing, the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22 (NLT) tells us:

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. “

Surrendering to God’s will, may not be easy but the guaranteed result is, as the saying goes, “the juice is worth the squeeze.”

Do you know Who your are and Whose you are? Join our Encounter workshop and find out more. 

Leave a Reply