After enduring another disastrous morning on the golf course, a good friend remarked something that really struck me! He said, “You are only competing against yourself.” How profound… Golf, seemingly more than any other sport, is a mental game and you win or lose right between your ears. Life is like that. The one you are really competing against is your own self. I know that life is spiritual and there is something behind what we see, but in its basic essence the most important struggle to win happens right inside your own mind. Will you win the battle of you versus you?
Inside all of us, a gigantic dichotomy plays out. We are literally two different entities living inside one body. One nature wants to seek out the good while the other nature seeks out the bad. It’s the old adage of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. And while that is not literally true, that scene plays out in a million variations. On the one hand we want to enjoy the best things in life and on the other hand we habitually settle for far less. One side of us knows the value of working hard while the other side seeks a quick fix. One part of us acts out of love and the other part acts out of fear. Almost instinctively we know the man or the woman we ought to be, but we cannot seem to get there no matter how hard we try. We know what we should do to be successful, but we fall short of it. Instead of using words that are uplifting and encouraging, we blurt out hurtful words and wound the hearts of others. We find ourselves in a perpetual conundrum. When the opportunity to do good presents itself, we don’t do it. But the things we hate, we do all the time. In the battle of you versus you, you have to fight. But, you are not fighting the world, you are fighting your own self based on the influences of the world. As human beings, it is our most important fight.
The reason we struggle to gain superiority over our own selves is because doing so requires that we learn to control ourselves. Self mastery requires control. How quickly we lose ground when victory is assured because we give in on some principle. We don’t see things through to their logical conclusion. We live inside bodies we no longer like, but are loathe to exercise the control necessary to set them right again. We fall for the false illusions of pleasure, offering us something they cannot give, then hate ourselves for doing so. We want to find the quick route, the shortcut, the workaround. We ignore the cautions because they don’t apply to us, only to suffer the consequences down the road. We have the hardest time in the world learning that the wrong choice leads to the wrong result in every case, though it may not be readily apparent. We so desperately want to be happy but don’t do the things that make for happiness. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We seek to blend the good and the evil and make them companions, hoping we can find a way to play in both leagues. The answer to our plight is only found in control, self control.
Learning to control yourself is a difficult task. Yet the failure to do so accounts for most of the misery that is in the world. Every failure that ever thwarted man has its roots in some failure concerning self control. Fear is a failure to properly control your thinking concerning some circumstance. Obesity is a failure to control what you eat. Alcoholism is a failure to control how much liquor you imbibe. Every character flaw, every weakness, every obnoxious habit comes about from a failure to control some aspect of your thinking and thus your life. Nothing is evil of itself. Things become evil in excess or overuse. Every aspect of life is to be enjoyed and it’s our job to recognize when our enjoyments are taking control of us. Anything that seeks to control you must be rigorously avoided at all costs. Once evil gets its foot in the door, it won’t be long before it moves in bringing more and more hurt and loss. Yet, your mind being the only thing you can actually control holds the key to every situation you find yourself confronted with.
The good news is that you can learn to control yourself. But, in order to do so, you have to learn how to control your thinking. The temptation to do wrong, which comes as easily as weeds growing in the garden, is resisted not with so much discipline, but more by refusal to think in certain directions. You cannot tinker with the wrong ideas, but rather immediately reject them. You have to think about what you are thinking about. If you feel miserable, chances are you are thinking thoughts that lead to misery. You cannot get a good life from bad thoughts. You cannot win a race by looking back. You cannot win the next moment fixated on the previous moments. You cannot learn and grow and change by adhering to the same thoughts which you have been cleaving to in the past. You cannot win if you think you cannot win. You, my friend, have to stop saying the things to yourself that defeat you. You have to get off your own back. You have to dwell on your good and not your evil. We all have some combination of good and evil going on inside us, but we win in proportion to how much we can minimize the evil and emphasize the good. (God has already graciously covered the evil).
This is a lesson that you have to learn for yourself. Try it out. Begin controlling some aspect of your life you feel has gotten away from you and see how good you feel about yourself. See how quickly your joy and enthusiasm for living come back. Self control is not something to be avoided in order to live a fun life, it is the very essence of a truly fun and enjoyable life.
Even your golf game will improve if you can get ahold of yourself in the midst of going astray. If it works for golf, it will certainly work for you…
Just some good thoughts…