The Art of Practicing Restraint
- Lisa Troyer LisaTroyer.com
- 2015 15 Jan
The Proverbs 31 woman must have been one who could both restrain her tongue and her actions. How do we know? The first things that are said about her are she is a woman of “noble character” (v. 10) and “her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (vv. 11–12). A little later the author tells us that this woman’s “husband is respected at the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (v. 23). If she had been a gossip or a busybody, she would not have been said to have a “noble character.” If she had been morally loose in any way, she would have done him harm and not good. By the effect her words and actions had on her husband — who held an office like today’s politicians — we know a lot about her. Lack of restraint was not a problem for her.
I wish I could say the same for myself. I cannot remember how many times I wished that I had waited an additional five seconds before sharing a response in a conversation, reaction in an argument, comment when teaching, or request in prayer. In just five seconds of silence, tremendously different results can occur. In just five seconds of seeking the Lord’s will over my own, what he desires can be better accomplished. Too often I find that I first say what I think is right and then ask him to bless what I have chosen in my own wisdom and strength. Time and time again, it has been obvious that this is not the best way.
Proverbs 21:2 (ESV) tells us, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” In this verse lies such a valuable reminder. We all think the first thing that enters our mind in any given situation is right. After all, we are more likely to believe ourselves than we are to believe anyone else. What we sometimes fail to take into consideration is the strong influence of our unique emotions, inclinations, experiences, and sinful nature. All we process comes through our own individualized filter. Sometimes our filter is dirty, torn, or in need of replacement, greatly hindering our ability to process a situation from a healthy or unbiased point of view. Before we even realize it, an off-the-cuff response comes forth, potentially impacting a situation to an undesirable degree.
It is vitally important that we take those extra five seconds, and oftentimes longer, to submit ourselves to the Lord before we respond. By doing this we allow him to weigh our hearts with his scales of knowledge, wisdom, and truth. When we use restraint in our words instead of just speaking our first thought, we are submitting both our thoughts and words to a divine filter. We are giving the Lord permission to influence and shape what will come forth. This kind of purposeful submission invites the Lord to be a part of everything we say. When he speaks through us, instead of us speaking for ourselves, things tend to go much more smoothly than they would otherwise.
This is also an issue for me when I pray. “Even in prayer you use restraint?” you might ask in shock. Yes, even here. I know that God knows everything that is on my mind before I verbally present it to him. But I believe that in the place of prayer, I should show restraint in what and how I pray over situations, myself, and others. It seems wise to me not just to blurt out my feelings. Instead I ask the Lord to lead and guide me as I share my heart with him.
There is no doubt that he can handle my little snits, outbursts, and self-indulgent whining sessions. In fact, he has been quite longsuffering when it has come to these episodes over the years. Thankfully, he knows that I’m “but dust” and keeps that frailty in perspective as he restrains his discipline in dealing with me for my own self-focused tendencies. A reminder to me that he is a kind, gracious, and merciful Father.
I don’t think it is a surprise to the Lord that we struggle in this area. It is fairly obvious it has always been this way. James 1:19–20 states, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” It is important to remember that when we allow our own words to take precedence, we have placed the Lord’s words and wisdom on the back burner.
When people exemplify restraint:
They are consistent and keep their integrity intact. Those with integrity have a unity of thought, word, and action. They realize that others will interpret what their convictions, values, and beliefs are by what they say and how they say it.
They think before they speak. They do not have outbursts or talk over others. They recognize that their words are an expression of who they are and who God is, so they choose them carefully.
They are good listeners. They analyze what they hear and choose their response based on the best way to communicate to the other person.
They look for opportunities to lift others up and encourage them.
- They maintain an attitude that is geared to bring help and healing to others rather than an attitude that is condescending, dismissive or aggressive.
Excerpt adapted from Real Women Leading: With Proverbs 31 Values by Lisa Troyer and Dawn Yoder ©2014 New Hope Publishers – used with permission
Lisa Troyer hosts Macchiato Moments on Moody Radio and is a founding member of John Maxwell’s team of coaches and trainers. She is the executive sales director for an international food service company. Lisa lives in Ohio with her husband, two children. Learn more about Lisa at www.lisatroyer.com
Publication date: January 15, 2015