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by David Truman

For a good life, do right and not wrong.

In years past, I've heard wise men speak of self-control as being almost everything in evolutionary life. At the time, I thought, "That totally sucks." But I've changed my tune a bit. Self-control doesn't totally suck. Not if morality matters. And not if hearts matter. And not if destiny matters.

Here's how I came to that revised conclusion.

Life without self-control sucks

I discovered that if you go with ego-whims, you go without morality. And to go without morality is rough. For example, let's say you happen to be a bed-ridden invalid. Your daughter is taking care of you -- but not very well. She eats almost all your food, because she feels like it. And you lie in filth, because she won't change you or your sheets. She doesn't feel like it. And she has no self-control.

She is not alone in her lack of self-control. I saw a comedian once who was quite overweight. He started his comedy routine this way:

"When you're as fat as I am, you don't want to look at yourself in the mirror -- it's hideous. But they gave me a free fitness coach when I worked for Universal Studios. My trainer said, 'You ought to listen to your body.' And I said, 'Listen to my body? How do you think I got this way?'

"When my body said, 'Get me some cookies,' I said, 'Sure thing, Mr. Body, right away!' 'Give me some pizza.' 'Sure thing, Mr. Body.' 'Give me some porno.' 'Yes, Mr. Body.'"

He was big, but not big on self-control.

Self-control is the only alternative to whim-based living, and its unhappy results. Consider this:

You have a Divine impulse, but the ego says, "I don't feel like it."

The ego says, "Eat all the cookies, because you want to" -- but then your friend doesn't get to have any.

"Don't do this." -- "Yes, ego."

"Don't do that." -- "OK, ego -- no problem!"

Right down the line, a path of servitude and obedience to ego.

As you can plainly see, it takes self-control to be able to do a good thing. And it takes self-control to resist reflexively/automatically or habitually doing bad things. Without self-control, when it comes to destructive impulses or counterproductive resistance, it's simply, "Sure thing, Mr. Ego! Whatever you say." In which case, you can't live a moral life.

The inconvenient choice

Imagine this: You end up in the icy water of a winter pond, because you fell through the ice. Fortunately, your friend, who is a few steps behind you, didn't fall through. They could save you! But unfortunately, to save you would be more than inconvenient for them -- it's actually dangerous.

What if you cry for help and they refuse? Who would deny that your friend took the safe course, the easy way? No one. But any sane person can also see, in an instance like that, how the important matter of personal convenience and safety relates to another important matter: Rightness. Morality.

And it is obvious that it would take conscious self-discipline to make the moral choice and do the right thing in a situation like that -- or, for that matter, in almost any other situation in life.

Face it: we either live the life of inconvenient rightness, or the life of convenient wrongness. Nothing in between. We just have to pick.

But it's an important choice, so maybe it's good that we have to choose. It's important, because it's not just a choice of whether to help or not; it's more a choice of, "Will I be a decent human being, or a scoundrel?" We're choosing our own self-image, and our own commitment: what side of the moral fence shall I be on?

And fast on the heels of our decisions, like a duckling after a mother duck, follows the destiny of the many people our decisions impact -- and, of course, our own destiny. Every moment of decision is destiny determining, not just for oneself, but also for one's associates -- and even, in a significant sense, for the human race.

Passing the torch

There were those in the past who, by their selfish and immoral choices, inflicted wounds on you that have yet to heal. And now, here you are, today. How are your choices impacting those around you? Are you hurting them with your present indifference, your present lack of morality -- because of the choice for convenience over goodness?

And aren't those the same kinds of choices by which you were victimized in the past? Didn't those who hurt you and damage you make that same kind of choice, for the same kind of reasons?

So now you see the passing of the torch, from one to the next, but it's all the same torch. Whenever anybody makes a certain kind of choice, the impact is always the same. It's a passing of influence. How powerful it is!

Making a difference -- many times a day

This is not to say everyone is merely a victim, or must be. But it's certainly important to recognize that we do make a difference in life. We make a difference in the lives of others.

And can you see, now, that making a positive difference depends 100% on self-control? Self-control applied consistently at moments of decision.

Those moments of decision are legion. We probably stand at the crossroads, the great divide, the point of decision between the moral choice and the convenient choice, every one to two minutes throughout the busy day. Sometimes more frequently, but rarely less so.

I mention that just so you know when to watch out for important things coming.

What's going to happen next in your life? -- Another decision point. And when is it going to happen? Within a couple of minutes.

Those choice points are both legion, and consequential. So don't let the legion err! Let the legion be true. Let it show morality.