Cultivate Self-Control

– posted by meleti

[From ws17/9 p. 3 – October 23-29]

“The fruitage of the spirit is . . . self-control.”​—Gal 5:22, 23

(Occurrences: Jehovah=23; Jesus=0)

Let us begin by examining one key element of Galatians 5:22, 23: The Spirit.  Yes, people can be joyful and loving and peaceful and self-controlled, but not in the manner referred to here.  These qualities, as listed in Galatians, are the product of the Holy Spirit and no limit is placed upon them.

Even wicked people exercise self-control, otherwise the world would descend into utter chaos. Likewise, those who are far from God can demonstrate love, experience joy and know peace.  However, Paul is speaking about qualities that are taken to a superlative degree.   “Against such things there is no law”, he says. (Gal 5:23) Love "bears all things" and "endures all things." (1 Co 13:8)  This helps us to see that Christian self-control is a product of love.

Why is there no limit, no law, with regard to these nine fruits?  Simply put, because they are from God. They are divine qualities.  Take, by way of example, the second fruit of Joy.  One would not consider being imprisoned to be an occasion for joy.  Yet, the letter many scholars term "the Letter of Joy" is Philippians, where Paul writes from prison. (Php 1:3, 4, 7, 18, 25; 2:2, 17, 28, 29; 3:1; 4:1,4, 10)

John Phillips makes an interesting observation about this in his commentary.[i]

In introducing this fruitage, Paul contrasts the spirit with the flesh at Galatians 5:16 -18.  He also does this in his letter to the Romans at chapter 8 verses 1 thru 13.  Romans 8:14 then concludes that “all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons.”  So those who exhibit the nine fruits of the spirit do so because they are God's children.

The Governing Body teaches that the Other Sheep are not God's children, but only his friends.

As a loving Friend, he warmly encourages sincere individuals who want to serve him but who have a hard time exercising self-control in some area of life.” – par. 4

 Jesus opened the door for the adoption for all humans. So those who refuse to go through it, who refuse to accept the offer of adoption, have no real basis for expecting that God will pour out his spirit upon them.  While we cannot judge who gets God's spirit and who does not on a person-by-person basis, we should not be fooled by outward appearances so as to conclude that a particular group of people is filled with the Holy Spirit from Jehovah.  There are ways to present a facade. (2 Co 11:15) How can we know the difference?  We will try to explore this as our review continues.

Jehovah Sets the Example

Three paragraphs of this article are devoted to illustrating how Jehovah has exercised self-control in his dealings with humans. We can learn much from examining God’s dealings with humans, but when it comes to imitating God, we might feel overwhelmed.  After all, he is God Almighty, master of the universe, and you and I are just the dust of the ground—sinful dust at that.  Recognizing this, Jehovah did something wonderful for us.  He gave us the greatest example of self-control (and all his other qualities) that we could possibly imagine. He gave us his Son, as a human being.  Now, a human being, even a perfect one, you and I can relate to.

Jesus experienced the weaknesses of the flesh: fatigue, pain, reproach, sadness, suffering—all of it, save for sin.  He can sympathize with us, and we with him.

“. . .For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” (Heb 4:15)

So here we have Jehovah’s great gift to us, the prime example for all the Christian qualities that spring from the Spirit for us to follow and what do we do?  Nothing!  Not a single mention of Jesus in this article.  Why ignore such a perfect opportunity to help us develop self-control by using the chief “perfecter of our faith”? (He 12:2)  Something is seriously wrong here.

Examples Among God’s Servants​—Good And Bad

What is the article’s focus?

  1. What does Joseph’s example teach us? One thing is that we may need to flee from the temptation to break one of God’s laws. In the past, some who are now Witnesses struggled with overeating, heavy drinking, smoking, drug abuse, sexual immorality, and the like. – par. 9

  2. If you have disfellowshipped relatives, you may need to control your feelings in order to avoid unnecessary contact with them. Self-restraint in such situations is not automatic, yet it is easier if we realize that our actions are in line with God’s example and in harmony with his counsel. – par. 12

  3. [David] wielded great power but refrained from using it out of anger when provoked by Saul and Shimei. – par. 13

Let's sum this up. A Jehovah's Witness is expected to exercise self-control so that he doesn't bring reproach on the Organization by immoral conduct.  He is expected to exercise self-control and support the unscriptural disciplinary system that the Governing Body uses to keep the rank-and-file in line.[ii] Finally, when suffering any abuse of authority, a Witness is expected to control himself, not get angry, and just put up with it in silence.

Would the spirit work in us in such a way as to support unfair disciplinary action?  Would the spirit work to keep us silent when we see injustices in the congregation carried out by those who abuse their power?  Is the self-control we see among Jehovah's Witnesses the product of Holy Spirit, or is it achieved by some other means, like fear, or peer pressure?  If the latter, then it may appear valid, but will not hold up under test and thus will prove to be counterfeit.

Many religious cults impose a strict moral code on members. The environment is carefully regulated and compliance is enforced by getting members to monitor each other.  Additionally, a rigid routine is imposed, with constant reminders to reinforce compliance with the rules of the leadership.  A strong sense of identity is also imposed, the idea of being special, better than those outside.  Members come to believe that their leaders care for them and that only by following their rules and instructions can real success and happiness be attained. They come to believe they have the best life ever.  Leaving the group becomes unacceptable as it not only means abandoning all family and friends, but of leaving the security of the group and being viewed by all as a loser.

With such an environment to support you, it becomes much easier to exercise the type of self-control this article speaks of.

Real Self-Control

The Greek word for "self-control" is egkrateia which can also mean "self-mastery" or "true mastery from within".  This is about more than refraining from bad.  The Holy Spirit produces in the Christian the power to dominate himself, to control himself in every situation.  When fatigued or mentally exhausted, we might seek some "me-time".  However, a Christian will dominate himself, should the need arise to exert himself to help others, as Jesus did. (Mt 14:13) When we are suffering at the hands of tormentors, be they verbal abuses or violent acts, the Christian's self-control does not stop at refraining from retaliation, but goes beyond and seeks to do good.  Again, our Lord is the model. While hanging on the stake and suffering verbal insults and abuses, he had the power to call down violence on all his opposers, but he didn't just refrain from doing so.  He prayed for them, even giving hope to some.  (Lu 23:34, 42, 43) When we feel exasperated by the insensitivity and dullness of mind of those we may attempt to instruct in the ways of the Lord, we do well to exercise self-control as Jesus did when his disciples continued to bicker about who was greater.  Even at the end, when he had more on his mind, they again got into an argument, but instead of holding back from an angry retort, he exercised dominion over himself, and humbled himself to the point of washing their feet as an object lesson.

It is easy to do things that you want to do. It is hard when you are exhausted, tired, irritated, or depressed to get up and do things you don't want to do. That takes real self-control—real mastery from within. That is the fruitage which God's spirit produces in his children.

Missing the Mark

This study is ostensibly about the Christian quality of self-control, but as evinced by its three main points, it is really part of the ongoing exercise for maintaining control over the flock. To review—

  1. Don't engage in sin, as that makes the Organization look bad.

  2. Don't talk to disfellowshipped ones, as that undermines the authority of the Organization.

  3. Don't get angry or criticize when suffering under authority, but just knuckle under.

Jehovah God endows his Children with his divine qualities.  This is wondrous beyond words.  Articles like this one do not feed the flock in such a way as to increase its understanding of these qualities. Rather, we feel pressure to conform, and anxiety and frustration can set it.  Consider now, how this could have been handled as we examine Paul's masterful explanation.

“ Always rejoice in the Lord. Again I will say, Rejoice! (Php 4:4)

Our Lord Jesus is the source of true joy in our trials.

"Let your reasonableness become known to all men. The Lord is near." (Php 4:5)

It is reasonable that when there is a wrong in the congregation, especially if the source of the wrong is an abuse of power by the elders, that we have the right to speak up without free of retribution.  "The Lord is near", and all should fear as we will answer to him.

"Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God;" (Php 4:6)

Let us cast off the artificial anxieties imposed upon us by men—hour requirements, striving for status, unscriptural rules of conduct—and submit instead to our Father by prayer and supplication.

"and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus." (Php 4:7)

Whatever trials we may face in the congregation because of the preponderance of Pharisaical mentalities, like Paul in prison, we can have inner joy and peace from God, the Father.

"Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well-spoken-of, whatever things are virtuous, and whatever things are praiseworthy, continue considering these things. 9 The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Php 4:8, 9)

Let us break free of the cycle of resentment over past wrongs and move forward.  If our minds are consumed by the pain of the past and if our hearts continue to seek a justice which cannot be attained by human means within the Organization, we will be kept back from progressing, from achieving the peace of God which will free us up for the work ahead.  What a shame if after being freed from the bonds of false doctrine, we still give the victory to Satan by allowing bitterness to fill our thoughts and hearts, crowding out the spirit and holding us back.  It will take self-control to change the direction of our thought processes, but by prayer and supplication, Jehovah can impart to us the spirit we need to find peace.


[i] (John Phillips Commentary Series (27 Vols.)) Grace!" "Peace!" Thus, the early believers wedded the Greek form of greeting (Hail!") with the Jewish form of greeting ("Peace!") to make the Christian form of greeting - a reminder that the "middle wall of partition" between Gentile and Jew had been abolished in Christ (Eph. 2:14). Grace is the root from which salvation springs; peace is the fruit that salvation brings.
[ii] For a scriptural analysis of the Bible’s counsel regarding disfellowshipping, see the article Exercising Justice.

Archived Comments

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  • Comment by THE DRIFTER on 2017-10-22 22:12:31

    To Meleti: I agree with what you penned here below,

    “ Let us break free of the cycle of resentment over past wrongs and move forward.”

    The entire closing paragraph was spot on but I wanted to boil it down as it fits what I have been feeling lately. Since 2013, I have let anger and resentment lead me. Only recently have I adopted your sentiments above and it has made all the difference. (shameless Frost reference)

    Thank you for all you do here and please know that even tho I don’t participate much, I lurk on occasion, as much as I can bear that is.

    • Reply by Devora on 2017-10-23 07:02:09

      Thank You for this most-beautifully written realization of what the fruitage really is!Reading what you'd contrasted--the poor article vs.the real"meat"of spiritual comprehensions--the word picture I thought was, "they're(wt)trying to pound the square flock(peg)into a round hole"Feeling compassion for the'pounded'ones..(that includes some of us here that came out of that).

  • Comment by wild olive on 2017-10-22 23:08:03

    Fine post and very encouraging , just as The Drifter commented below the need to not hold on to resentment and bitterness is key to progressing spiritually, Raymond Franz set a stirling example of this ,he was probly one of the most invested JWs there is , yet he found forgiveness and letting go an important part of coping with the future.
    I came to this realisation myself by a different means and this may help others.
    I happened to look at the news one night and the Pope was stating how homosexuals needed to be "accommodated " by the church,I thought to myself here we go with another compromise, then it hit me, why do I not feel outraged like I do when I look at JW org? After all they are both telling lies and bending the bible to meet their respective agendas? So why should I feel less outraged at the Pope and more outraged by JWorg? Clearly my attitude had to change, in Jehovah's eyes they are no different ,why should I look at them with difference, when both of them are doing the same thing? Now forgiveness becomes ,not a weakness , but a weapon against a wrong spirit.

  • Comment by River on 2017-10-23 01:36:40

    Beatifully articulated. Reminds me of Romans 5.1,2 which learn us that to be the sons of god is never a call but a state you only maintain in the believing in Jesus. I have tried to pinpoint this fact for my brethren but they don't appreciate to hear this kind of talking. They ain't really christians but rather jews version 2.0.
    Love the work and kindness you do. I believe you truly are one of many oikonomos.

  • Comment by Leonardo Josephus on 2017-10-23 12:38:51

    Hi Meliti. I wonder where you were in the UK (see last week). Thanks for the summary. It is a shame to not see Jesus name throughout the study. I could not believe it, although at least there were some references to Christians. However, next week we actually have a picture of Jesus at the start of the study, and three (I think) mentions of his name, but no mention of his name in the headings, when, as you rightly stated he is our exemplar. Sorry to run ahead on that one.
    Many of the other points you make are embedding themselves so firmly in my brain, that I feel quite confident to raise them with the appointed men who will still listen to me. It is almost fun, if a little dangerous.
    However, paragraph 12 is strange - If you have disfellowshipped relatives, you may need to control your feelings in order to avoid unnecessary contact with them. Self restraint in such "situations" is..easier if we realize that our actions are in line with God's example. Exactly what situations are we referring to ? Jehovah continued to talk to Satan even after the flood. Jesus spoke to Satan while on earth. Also It is not the speaking to those who are sinning and disfellowshipped which is the problem. It is the unchristian way that some are treated after they stop coming to meetings, whether disfellowshipped or not that irks. And then we have the nerve to suggest this will encourage them back !

    • Reply by Smoldering Wick on 2017-10-24 16:09:28

      Hi Leonardo Josephus,

      You are so right about paragraph 12 and its reference to disfelloshipped loved ones, a teaching Jesus absolutely desecrated in his, 'Prodigal Son' parable.(Luke 15:11-32) In fact Jesus shunned no one. The only ones guilty of shunning were the "wise and intellectual ones" who were too proud to learn or ask Jesus honestly for clarification of such things.(Luke 10:21) The only shunning Jesus practiced was his attitude toward hypocrisy which resulted in making him the main target of hypocrites.

      The increasing reference to this practise only demonstrates the organization's growing vulnerability to its own hypocrisy.

  • Comment by Worldling on 2017-10-24 10:08:01

    I was disfellowshipped 32 yrs ago. The best thing that ever happened to me! Great article Meleti, you always seem to hit the nail on the head. I must say that the spirit of God and Jesus Christ seems to work stronger with me not being involved in a religion.I just kick back and watch Satan do his magic with his flock, he must be the greatest magician on earth, as so many people are entranced in his spells. I think it was back in 1992 when Jimmy Swaggart got busted the WTBTS was trying to help his case so that they could keep charging for their literature but it didn't work. Then in 2000 when the GB and the corporation split up things really started to change for the worse. The good Lord had a scripture already picked out for them way in advance. Mark 3:26!!

  • Comment by Amitafal on 2017-10-24 14:30:03

    Very good article . A nice reminder to move on from resentment. Just one question - in the last paragraph with mention progressing in the peace of God that will free us up for ‘the work ahead’. Discussing this with family we wonder what you meant by work ahead.
    Look forward to your reply .

    • Reply by Meleti Vivlon on 2017-10-24 17:33:25

      TBA. :)

  • Comment by wild olive on 2017-10-24 19:54:42

    Hi Brain
    Quite amazed what similar conclusions I reached to what you have posted. When I started my exit I found that I had no real moral compass, all my "principles " had been decided by a bunch of old codgers in an office in Brooklyn, I had a hard time coming to grips with the idea that an organisation could teach so many things not in the bible , yet still produce what appears to be very nice people, a real paradox! I had to accept the idea , that the scriptures teach , that me as an individual is how Jehovah wants to deal with me, not through a collective, Jesus wasn't ransomed for a collective, he purchased individuals who would have faith not an organisations faith, I believe that most of those who leave the org come to that realisation too late, as it has been ground into them that there is only one organisation that Jehovah uses, and that this is the ONLY way that Jehovah deals with humans,this leaves them vulnerable to wrong actions and that is exactly what happened to me, I was stuck on the " where do we go" not whom do I go to Joh 6:68 , that's the power of false teaching.

    • Reply by wild olive on 2017-10-25 17:54:53

      Well said Brain
      Right now in Aus the government has issued a referendum on legal marriage of homosexuals, to vote either yes or no to make homosexual marriage legal.
      I took this up with my bro in law who is "in the org" up to his back teeth , I said to him don't you think that as a people who represent Jehovah's interests,should we vote no to gay marriage? His response was the standard "don't get involved in politics" . I replied to him , isn't it true that what they want is legal recognition? He said yes,I asked him,didn't the GB take the issue of freeness of speech to the Supreme Court to also get our rights recognised? So we have a precedent to say something?He said that was to uphold the preaching work. I asked him so isn't the family and marriage also something that Jehovah values? After all long before there was a GB and JWorg, the oldest of Jehovah's arrangements was the family, so by voting no to gay marriage are we upholding Jehovah's values?
      He just stared at me for a long time and said , well we just can't , my reply was , you have more reasons to vote no than to say nothing, and I will be using my conscience to vote no.
      I wonder if he's gone telling tales to the circuit overseer? I think I will find out in the next few weeks .

      • Reply by Dajo on 2017-10-26 04:11:24

        Hello Wild,
        I'm in Brisbane area and put in my vote. The vote is for a community decision so the thought among JWs (who are in) is that it is a conscience matter... I know of a MS, his wife and adult children who also voted. My wife didn't but she knows I did and she discussed it with some when she was out in "the work" and they also felt it was a conscience issue. I remember an old questions from readers about referendums and plebiscites, if I find it will let you know..

        • Reply by wild olive on 2017-10-26 05:22:37

          Hi Dajo
          I would have thought that bethel in Aus would have issued a public statement at the very least, but then, it looks stupid taking a stand on gay marriage ,while at the same time having a concealed child abuse problem? Oh the troubles that weave when we deceive.
          One of the things that got our 1st century brothers and sisters in trouble was that they would not accept the roman lifestyle, which included acceptance of homosexuality, they got thrown to the lions because they wouldn't go along with what was politically correct at the time. I wonder how most JWs would handle that , now they have a chance to make a public declaration that everyone ,in Aus anyway , is giving very close attention to, as Martha said , all trailers.

        • Reply by wild olive on 2017-10-26 17:31:34

          Actually Dajo
          Pleased to hear that some brothers have used their consciences and taken a stand, what is really funny is the Carholics, the Lutherans , the uniting church have all issued public statements requesting their members to vote no, Hillsong is one that said nothing along with the JWs , strange bedfellows.

          • Reply by Dajo on 2017-10-26 19:32:28

            Well yes while that's true, I don't think they should be making public media comments. After all when they are out and about in "the work" people have asked what they think and the Bible is used to show the truth of the matter. God's Word does the judging.
            However, that said, the Australian Branch office has been silent about it to the rank and file - just as they were when the Royal Commission into sex abuse was going on.

      • Reply by MarthaMartha on 2017-10-26 04:41:57

        Isn't it weird that we're counselled to be proud to stand out as JWs, and yet when we have the chance to use a provision for expressing our belief by voting in a referendum that will actually make a difference, we're muzzled?

        Romans 13 says the authorities are established by God. Funny how the GB can use the provision of appeal to the superior authorities for their own legal rights but if we do it, it's classed as being involved in politics.

        If I had been in Oz I would have used my vote too, wild olive.

    • Reply by MarthaMartha on 2017-10-26 04:30:42

      So true. great comments brain and WO.

      I think that one of the saddest things about the failings of this organisation is that it controls members lives to the point of not allowing them to develop and use their own conscience.

      A brother I know well used to talk of ' tractors and trailers' . The organisation trains people to be trailers, pulled and taken in a direction with no control of their own. Some break away from that control and go careering off, sometimes crashing, some just stopping in their search for truth.

      We should all be tractors not trailers. We should know the truth and have our own engine, not be taught or satisfied to be pulled along and directed by an organisation.

      Once we tractors see that the controller has the wrong map, and actually we have our own inbuilt SatNav designed and programmed by Holy Spirit, we can break off and stay on track. Pull our own weight.

      The organisation has convinced too many that they are trailers. This brother still associates but uses his experience and teaching ability to reason with friends in the organisation in the hope that they will realise they have an engine and a satnav of their own, if they would activate and update the software. ?

      • Reply by wild olive on 2017-10-26 05:13:40

        Hi Martha , brilliant illustration, only thing is the leadership doesn't want tractors unless they are totally compliant , sort of a tractor /trailer hybrid?

        • Reply by Smoldering Wick on 2017-10-29 15:21:43

          Or a twin engine train ?

      • Reply by Dajo on 2017-10-26 19:39:49

        Hello Martha, yes I like that too. I'm going to ponder that illustration and put it to good use. Thanks!

      • Reply by eve04 on 2017-10-28 01:25:27

        Amen MarthaMartha
        Your statement "Once we tractors see that the controller has the wrong map, and actually we have our own inbuilt SatNav designed and programmed by Holy Spirit, we can break off and stay on track. Pull our own weight."
        It is certainly in harmony with what Paul said at Romans 14:12
        So then , each of us will render an account for himself.

  • Comment by Dajo on 2017-10-26 19:21:34

    Thanks Brain,
    You raise a very interesting and important point. Worth considering..

  • Comment by wild olive on 2017-10-26 20:48:23

    Fair call Brain
    However I feel (opinion) that it's not a matter of judgement, the context of the scripture you cited is Paul's advice on who is wholesome assiciation or not, I have no desire to associate with practisers of homosexuality, but what they are wanting is clearly against godly principles, and is derogatory to the family, without family's you don't have a community or a civilisation, it's the building block of humanity, the whole idea of same sex marriage works directly against the existence of the human race, which in my mind serves the purpose of Satan,I believe it's worth supporting , in or out of the congregation, and I find it hard to imaging Jehovah been displeased at speaking out in favour of what's his. Didn't Jesus also say don't put your light under a basket? Just a few thoughts.

    • Reply by Dajo on 2017-10-27 06:27:03

      Wild O,
      I understand how you feel. Probably the most important word in your last post is the word in brackets, the word starting with "o".
      We have learned through many articles and comments on this site that our father will fix all things up.
      Sometimes when we feel passionate about something the result is ... well I know from experience.. I often used to lose self control and the result was not good.
      I do not know you. I have worked out you are an aussie like me, however that is only my opinion.
      We know the outcome of the referendum which is due on Nov 15 in Australia will probably rule in favour of changing the Marriage Law Act to INCLUDE same sex couples. I do not agree with that.
      What I think, feel, or have an opinion on does not matter nor count to people in general. I could jump up and down, leap about, thump my chest and yell (holler if in the usa), it would not change the outcome.
      Australia is only doing this as a kind of placid thing to calm the people.
      Even if the true results were in favour (Spell favor for usa) of Marriage Law between a man and woman only- Parliament (Australian Government name) will probably go against it and overturn the, .. the.. here it is "THE OPINION" of the ordinary Aussie bloke or sheila (man or woman, R&F person).
      It is good that you are as the WT publications say "Righteously indignant". Passionate about things like Jesus was. Some things we simply cannot change at present. Let go of things like that. I have wasted a lot of energy being angry about the wasted decades in WTBS. It is only by looking forward to reading comments here from all the comments - sometimes only a sentence long - that I am learning to use Self Control properly and move on

      • Reply by wild olive on 2017-10-28 05:18:06

        Hi Dajo
        Sorry if I sound opinionated or dogmatic , because it certainly wasn't intended, it may sound like Ime passionate, but not really , concerned is probly closer.
        Just another point to add, this gay marriage thing is the thin end of a wedge, already in the USA peadophiles are now pushing for legal recognition , since the moral door has been flung open by the LGBT community, anything goes, and the peados now are thinking of how to make their practises legitimate, sick I know but that's what's happening.
        Of course if peadophiles get legal recognition, then JWorg leaders will breath a sigh of relief as it will now mean there will be no more legal grounds to pursue compensation. This by the way has a name it's called " social engineering" and Ime sure as the sun rises ,it's going to be an ongoing issue well into the 1000 year kingdom rule, in fact the bible even says so, at the end of the 1000 year reign there are going to be those who want to do things their own way, much like the LGTB community are right now.So while Ime not passionate about it Ime more about been aware of how one thing leads to another , and that Ime sure is a skill that all those who hope to rule with Christ are going to need, it's what we are learning now and understanding now that's going with us into the heavenly kingdom.
        The other thing about this is that as a former JWorg worshipper, I had my voice taken away from me, there is no way except the organisational way, as other articles have expressed on this site, we have rights and responsibilities as individual Christians , and it's not the business of self appointed leaders to determine my conscience, something that I think is part of the awareness that all have on this forum, so now I use my voice for the benefit of the community I live in, not just to benefit organisational interests, which I believe are not in the interests of the community at large, the org only sees the community as something to exploit , not build up or support in any way.
        Just a few opinions offered without dogma .

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