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The Virtue of Self Control


Soliman the Wise said: “He who is slow to anger

is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit

than he who takes a city” (Pr 16:32).

So who is the one who rules his spirit? (Meaning

who controls himself?)

There is no doubt that self control includes

many factors among which:

Tongue control, mind control, control of the

senses, stomach control (from the eating point of

view), controlling desires and lusts, controlling nerves

(from the anger point of view) and controlling all

one’s behavior.

Tongue Control:

The wise says also: “In the multitude of words sin

is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

(Pr 10:19). And St James the Apostle says: “But no

man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of

deadly poison.” (Jas 3:28). And thus the apostle also


“If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a

perfect man, able also to bridle the whole

body.” (Jas 3:2).

And thus also the chanter pleas for God’s help


“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep

watch over the door of my lips” (Ps 141:3).

And he who controls his tongue is saved

from many sins.

He never falls into insulting others by swearing,

mocking or harsh rebuking, nor threatening or being

proud over them. And never falls into lying,

exaggeration, swearing nor blaspheming… Neither in

shameless joking nor in chattering… Neither in false

information, in taking pride and self righteousness,

talking about oneself, condemning others, nor in

angry talking and even the bible says:

“Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his

peace” (Pr 17:28).

And controlling the lips has many positive


He who controls his lips gives himself a chance to

slow down and think before speaking and takes a

chance to choose the words, pick the suitable word

and calculate reactions to what he says.

Because the word you say is counted on you

regardless of how much you apologize for it.

So long as you have said it and it reached

people’s ears, minds and feelings it no longer

becomes your own to do whatever you want with it!

You can control it before you say it. But after you

speak it, it becomes in control of you because “For by

your words you will be justified, and by your words

you will be condemned” (Mt 12:37).

Suffice it to say that St. Arsanious once said:

“I often talked and regretted it. But for my

silence I never had any regrets.”

So control your tongue. Saints also used to

remain silent to give themselves a chance to pray and

meditate. And as the Spiritual Elder said: “hold your

tongue for your heart to pray” and said: “The

talkative indicates his emptiness from inside

(emptiness from the prayer work)” And said: “A wise

man said:

“Not all what is heard is said. And not all

what is said is written.””

Not all what you hear you repeat to the hearing of

others, otherwise you will cause problems among

people. And this can reach the level of gossip and

backbiting! And what is more dangerous is what you

write because it becomes a document against you.

Thought Control:

And what is a sin by the tongue is a sin if

you think of it.

So guard your thoughts. And do not accept any

thought that comes to you. Aspire to keep your

thoughts pure. And if a sinful thought comes to you

beware from dealing with it and going far with it.

Expel it quickly so that it does not control you and

turn into feelings in your heart.

Take care from thoughts of anger revenge and

lust, from thoughts of condemning others and vain

thoughts, also from the thought of envy jealousy and

grudge, and from the thoughts of pride and vain

glory… And from every thought that does not glorify

God. And even if you could not listen to the proverb

that says:

If you cannot prevent the bird from hovering

around your head then at least do not let it build

a nest in your hair.

Do not keep sinful thinking inside your head. And

try to keep your mind busy all the time with useful

thoughts or spiritual meditations so that if the devil

fights your thoughts he never finds them free for


And there is also another way to control the mind

and it is through controlling the senses:

Controlling the Senses:

The senses are gates of the mind. So guard

these gates:

Control the hearing, seeing and touching…, so

that they do not let in sinful thoughts. And may your

senses be pure. And regarding what your senses

sense out of your will, do not think of it and do not go

back to it with your own will…

The first look may be a coincidence or out of your

will. But the second look with no doubt is by your will

and you will be accounted for.

Know that your senses do not only bring you

thoughts but they may also stay in your

unconsciousness and then become dreams and


So controlling the senses then help in keeping a

pure mind and pure dreams and suspicions. And it

also helps in keeping pure feelings too.

Controlling the Feelings:

May your feelings be controlled. And if you find a

sinful feeling coming into your heart do not interact

with it but get it out quickly before it settles in you.

And try constantly to maintain the purity of your


Do not surrender to any covetousness or

sinful desire.

But fight it, said St Paul the Apostle: “You have

not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin”

(He 12:4).

Do not make this evolve to worse…

Control your senses so that they do not bring in

thoughts. And if the thought comes, control it so that

it does not turn into a feeling or covetousness. And if

it reaches the lust level, control it so that it does not

turn into an action… and if it reaches the level of the

action, stop it quickly so that it does not turn into a

habit and controls you.

Force Yourself Constantly:

And know that forcing yourself trains you on

strong will…

Force yourself to obey the commandment

and to be obedient and submissive.

Force yourself in obeying the Lord, and in obeying

Law and public order. Do not try to trick and go

against the law or against your conscience and do not

try to draw excuses. Do not allow your conscience to

widen so that it accepts many things…

Know that excuses and justifications are

dangerous enemies to self control. So do not excuse

yourself from any mistake you commit. And instead of

spoiling yourself try to straighten it and force it to do

good deeds and keep it away from all evil and any

form of evil.

Loving the Self:

Control yourself from the point of self loving. The

Lord said: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he

who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal

life” (Jn 12:25). So stay away from loving yourself

and loving the big part and best seats. And do not

prefer yourself over others. And do not make your

comfort comes on the expense of others’ labor. And if

you find yourself lead in a wrong way, adjust the

direction firmly.

And control yourself from the side of

impulsiveness and rashness and from the side

of rushing into any fast decision.

If you found yourself nervous control your nerves,

control you your tongue, control you facial

expressions, control your moves and do not allow

yourself to make a mistake against any other person

even if they committed a mistake against you.

And control yourself from the side of using

the freedom.

It is good to enjoy the freedom but keep

your freedom controlled.

Let it be a pure freedom in which you do not do

what is improper. Let it be peaceful and wise freedom

that does not trespass on other people’s freedom or

rights or on the public order.

Free your heart first from all sins. And if you

are free from the inside you can use your

outside freedom with wisdom and in peace.

External Control:

Know that if you are not controlled from the

inside you will be forced to be controlled from

the outside.

As a human who is forced to be controlled by:

Law, custom and punishment. And as a son who can

not be controlled by himself, so is controlled by

discipline and his parents raising. And as any human

who is forced into control through fear…

And there is he who is forced into control though

being ashamed from people or afraid from being

exposed and from scandals.

Or a thief who is forced into controlling himself

temporarily out of fear from guards.

Or a human who is forced into controlling himself

as a result of rebuking.

Or as a result of the presence of things that

prevent him like the lack of ability, the lack of

opportunity or the resistance of others against him.

And they all are non spiritual reasons.

But the spiritual person controls himself

from the inside willingly because he loves

goodness, loves God and wants to straighten


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