Just Sayin' No, That's Enough: Self-Control
Amen! Thankfully, Gus learned self-control...the hard way, but the nevertheless he grasped it. A 2012 study, Religion Replenishes Self-Control, identified self-control as the capacity to suppress personally desirable behaviors (e.g., taking a nap) or impulses (e.g., lashing out in anger at other people) to bring behaviors in line with more socially acceptable goals and standards (e.g., helping with the harvest). The experimental work showing a link between religion and self-control has often involved indirect tests of this relationship. In this study, the authors investigated the outcomes of employing religious tenets and their impact on individuals’ self-control. God-related concepts were implemented in participants without their conscious awareness. Four experiments were conducted to tests participants’ capacity to endure discomfort; delayed gratification; persistence with and without ego depletion; and ruling out alternative explanations. These experiments reported two key concepts: that self-control is the central psychological pillar that makes adaptive behaviors possible; and that religion serves as an effective cultural mechanism for regulating self-control, a mechanism that allowed human ancestors to make evolutionarily adaptive decisions despite harsh environmental challenges. For example, in which participants were less likely to cheat in a game when they were primed with the concept of an angry, punishing God than when they were primed with the concept of a loving and forgiving God; it may be argued that bringing the possibility of the punishing aspects of God to participants’ attention increased their self-control, which discouraged them from cheating.
This research creates a spotlight on the impact of institutional structure concepts as religion and ultimately how it creates a sense of accountability. With the given example, the participant’s lowered inclination to cheat is a direct of their allegiance to God. Christian scriptures such as Titus 1:7-8 (ESV), speaks to this allegiance and the ways that believers should conduct themselves. Furthermore, such allegiance in the religious context may help create healthy boundaries that increase the potential for wellness of life. To that end, I believe that bad or displeasing behaviors are less likely to emerge because of the accountability factor that stems from having structure set in place.
The research evokes a conscientious thought regarding adaptive behaviors because of the clarification of what it means to operate with self-control. I believe that when applying that understanding to the Christian faith and everyday struggles with sin, one is able to draw from biblical ideals that resonate to our will power and a choice in our lifestyles. Furthermore, the concept of control gives us the capacity to live at a functioning rate, because we have access to organized institutions which give us the freedom to say "no."
Rounding, K., Lee, A., Jacobson, J., & Ji, L. (2012). Religion Replenishes Self-Control. Psychological Science (Sage Publications Inc.), 23(6), 635-642. doi:10.1177/0956797611431987