So, let’s do a quick survey:

If I asked you whether you would like your child or teen to display any of the following characteristics, what would you say?









Let me rephrase that: Is there anyone who doesn’t want to see these in their kids? I mean, come on, many of us pray for these things to be active in our child’s life.

Why wouldn’t you? Kids who exhibit these things become adults who make outstanding spouses, parents, employees, bosses and citizens.

Now, another list. Anyone interested in seeing these characteristics at work in our kids’ lives?

Outbursts of anger







Exactly. None of us. In fact, it’s a bit repulsive.

You pray against these things, don’t you?

As some of you are realizing, this list isn’t arbitrary. In fact, it’s pulled directly from the Bible (Galatians 5:19-23).

The two lists describe what happens when God is at work in us and when He is not.

What has bothered me about this for years is that sometimes my life can look more like the second list, and less like the first. What gives? I’m a Christian. Shouldn’t my life automatically default to the better virtues? Shouldn’t some change ensue? How come when I pray, things don’t change nearly as much as I want them to?

Well, I left one of the virtues off the list. In addition to the Holy Spirit bringing love, joy and more, He brings one other thing: self-control. (It’s in verse 23.)

For years, I thought self-control was such an odd addition to the list. You could almost frame the list and hang it somewhere prominent if it wasn’t for the word “self-control.” That one is just so, utilitarian or something.

But more recently I realized that it might be the most important virtue of all. Why? Because if I have self-control, everything else is so much easier.

Self-control makes it easier to love. And to be gentle. And to keep peace. And to be kind. Being able to control yourself leads to fewer outbursts of anger, fewer quarrels and means you can stop drinking or not drink at all.

Omit self-control, and both lists start to look either impossible to attain or impossible to avoid. Add self-control, and the whole thing flips.

Which is maybe why one of the best things you can do for yourself, and your family, is to put more focus on the virtue of self-control.

What if every day you were more intentional about choosing to do something you didn’t want to and showing your kids how to do the same? What if every time you prayed, you also prayed for the virtue of self-control? In your child’s life, teen’s life, and your life, it might just change more than you think.