How To Build Self-Control
Last week, we talked about commanding our thoughts and releasing what we can’t control. This week, we’ll talk about what can happen when we refuse to examine our thoughts and actions.
Every wicked thing that any human has ever done, any human can do. When you understand this, it makes it harder to judge others.
Thankfully, empathy and self-interest are enough to keep most of our worst behaviors in check.
But what happens when our values are compromised by pride, anger, desperation, fear, or ignorance?
We’ve seen several examples throughout history:
- French revolutionaries replaced a tyrannical monarchy with a horrific Reign of Terror
- Americans murdered each other with bullets and bayonets over the right to own humans as property
- “Normal” people aided and abetted the genocide of millions of Jews during WWII
- The President of the United States ordered the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese men, women, and children in a desperate effort to win WWII
At a certain point, the debate of “what is good” and “what is evil” transcends academic discussion and becomes a matter of life and death.
Unfortunately, the line between good and evil is usually only visible in hindsight.
Quote of the Week
“The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become.” — Heraclitus
Balance Is The Key
To be human is to fight for balance between light and dark in our own souls. However, to integrate our darkness, we must first acknowledge it, then learn how to leverage it for the sake of virtue.
For example, sometimes, to love someone, we must tell them a painful truth. However, if we push too hard or cut too deeply, we risk driving them further into ignorance, darkness, and despair.
Likewise, sometimes, to protect the innocent, violence is required. However, if we don’t maintain a clear head, righteous fury can give way to cruelty in the span of a second.
That’s why, above all else, we must soberly study our motivations and scrutinize our desires. We must temper our actions with virtue.
- We must learn to seek joy without stealing it from others.
- We must learn to exercise power without getting drunk on it.
- We must learn to endure abuse without paying it forward.
- We must learn to confront cruelty without indulging in it ourselves.
Many people have said the phrase, “Power corrupts.”
I don’t believe that’s true. I believe power is a multiplier. It feeds both the light and darkness inside us.
It’s up to us to keep them balanced.
Question of the Week
What is something you’ve done that you regret? Why did you do it? How will you prevent yourself from doing it again?
Live On Purpose // Die Without Regrets
Each Wednesday, I publish a 3-5 minute newsletter + video podcast that applies ancient wisdom to modern life.
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