ability to regulate one's emotions, thoughts, and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses

Self-control is the ability to control one's thoughts, emotions, behavior, and desires.

Constantly wrestle with your thought, and whenever it wanders call it back to you. ~ Johannes Climacus

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  • Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought.


  • Benjamin Franklin, tactless in his youth, became so diplomatic, so adroit at handling people that he was made American Ambassador to France. The secret of his success? "I will speak ill of no man," he said, ... "and speak all the good I know of everybody." Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. "A great man shows his greatness," says Carlyle, "by the way he treats little men."
  • Constantly wrestle with your thought, and whenever it wanders call it back to you.
    • Johannes Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, as translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Holy Transfiguration Monastery: 1959), § 4:92, p. 43
  • Let every one of us cultivate, in every word that issues from our mouth, absolute truth. I say cultivate, because to very few people — as may be noticed of most young children — does truth, this rigid, literal veracity, come by nature. To many, even who love it and prize it dearly in others, it comes only after the self-control, watchfulness, and bitter experience of years.
    • Dinah Craik, A Woman's Thoughts About Women, (1858) Ch. 8.


  • Just as a fletcher straightens an arrow shaft, even so the discerning man straightens his mind — so fickle and unsteady, so difficult to guard.
  • The fool worries, thinking, "I have sons, I have wealth." Indeed, when he himself is not his own, whence are sons, whence is wealth?


Whoso chastens his servants, does so that he may possess them; the good God chastens His servants that they may possess themselves. ~ Ephraim the Syrian
  • The concept of substance leads to a materialist aspect of the mind. I speak instead of the spiritual existence of the self without mentioning any 'substance' properties. The great problem is 'how the self controls its brain'. This is dualistic, but not in terms of two substances. Instead it relates to the two worlds of Popper.
  • Whoso chastens his servants, does so that he may possess them; the good God chastens His servants that they may possess themselves.
    • Ephraim the Syrian, Nisibene Hymns, 3:3, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 13, p. 171


  • What do I mean by a professional soldier? I mean one who has been thoroughly trained in the school of military discipline. And what is military discipline? In its essence I must repeat that it is the organized abnegation of self, the organized sacrifice of the individual for the corporate welfare. Its object is to make hundreds of thousands act under the guidance of a single will; its leading principle is immediate and unquestioning obedience to superior command. In a way it is hard, for it enjoins that it is better for injustice to be done to the individual than that an order should be disobeyed. In a way it is narrowing, and may undoubtedly be injurious to character; for it treats the formula 'Orders must be obeyed' as a sufficient answer to any reasoning. It may be turned to evil account, for, as the Prayer Book teaches us, there was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted.' On the other hand it it may be both strengthening and ennobling; for self-sacrifice is no mean ideal to set before a man; and, if the drill-sergeant cannot always impart self-reverence and self-knowledge, he can at least enforce self-control. And the outstanding mark of a man who has been educated, not merely in intellect but in character, is self-control.
    • John Fortescue, The British Soldier and the Empire, Raleigh Lecture on History (1920), quote from page 413, Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 9
  • Hitler was undoubtedly a genius but he lacked self-control. He recognized no limits. Otherwise the thousand-year Reich would have lasted more than twelve years.
    • Wilhelm Frick To Leon Goldensohn, March 10, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" - by Leon Goldensohn - History - 2007


  • Self-control is something for which I do not strive. Self-control means wanting to be effective at some random point in the infinite radiations of my spiritual existence.
  • There can be no self-government without self-discipline. There can be no self-government without self-control. There can be no liberty unless it is grounded in moral discipline and the ability to do what is right.
  • Whatever God gives, he “gives not the spirit of cowardliness but the spirit of power and self-control". (2 Timothy 1.7) Just as it is required of the expectant person, if his expectancy is noble and worthy of a human being, that he seeks this spirit of power and self-control, and that, just as his expectancy is laudable, he must also be one who is properly expectant, so in turn will the object of expectancy, the more glorious and precious it is, form the expectant person in its own likeness, because a person resembles what he loves with his whole soul.


  • The only abuse of drugs is the control of drugs by other people. ...The only control is self-control.



  • Trees continue to vegetate, and so do live on beasts and birds; he alone lives whose mind lives not in consequence of taking on a variety of forms. All holy writ is so much burden to him who has not acquired self-control, the body is so much burden to him who knows only the anatman (no-self.)
    • Yogi Ramacharaka (1907/2007), The spirit of the Upanishads, Cosmo Classics, New York, p. 23


  • When one intends to move or when one intends to speak, one should first examine one’s own mind and then act appropriately with composure. When one sees one’s mind to be attached or repulsed, then one should neither act nor speak, but remain still like a piece of wood. When my mind is haughty, sarcastic, full of conceit and arrogance, ridiculing, evasive and deceitful, when it is inclined to boast, or when it is contemptuous of others, abusive, and irritable, then I should remain still like a piece of wood. When my mind is averse to the interests of others and seeks my own self-interest, or when it wishes to speak out of a desire for an audience, then I will remain still like a piece of wood. When it is impatient, indolent, timid, impudent, garrulous, or biased in my own favor, then I will remain still like a piece of wood.
    • Santideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, V. Wallace and B. Wallace, trans. (1997), § 5.47
  • It is not worth asking how to define consciousness, how to explain it, how it evolved, what its function is, etc., because there's no one thing for which all the answers would be the same. Instead, we have many sub-capabilities, for which the answers are different: e.g., different kinds of perception, learning, knowledge, attention control, self-monitoring, self-control, etc.


  • Are you polluting the world or cleaning up the mess? You are responsible for your inner space; nobody else is... p. 53

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