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The Habit of Self-Control

Nothing is so fraught with peril in a human life as blind, uncontrolled animal impulse. The father or mother who sees a son or daughter fly into an uncontrolled passion or acting entirely and habitually on impulse may well tremble for the future of that child, unless the emotional forces thus let loose in action can be securely harnessed to a well regulated intellect. Goethe, in one of the sweetest of his works, "Hermann and Dorothea," brought out the safety of acting upon "the innocent impulses given us by the good Mother Nature; " but in his greater "Faust" he warned us of the fearful wreck to which a life of mere impulse surely leads.

In our complicated human life the individual is held in his grooves of action by a multiplicity of forces, and the conventional and conservative influences of society reduce the perils of impulse to a minimum. Much that we do is fixed by habit or springs from imitation, enforced through custom or fashion. Work, study and play engross our energies and much of our time is given to occupations of an essentially harmless character, involving no possibilities of danger. Public opinion is a mighty restraint, and the desire of the approbation of others a strong safeguard. Besides, most of our impulses are naturally right and good, as provided by Goethe's "good Mother Nature," and need no watching.

All the same, however, and probably all the more because safety is the rule, every character needs both the power and the habit of self-control. No one knows when the emergency may come which shall put all his moral resources and powers of resistance to temptation to the severest test. Everyone needs at such times not only all the bulwarks of conscience and religion but also the protection involved in a self-control rooted in habit and based upon a firm intellectual supremacy over the emotions. —Extract

I'll bind myself to that which, once being right,
Will not be less right when I shrink from it.
—Charles Kingsley
Everything turns your attention to what a man can become, not by yielding himself freely to impressions, not by letting nature play freely through him, but by at single thought, an earnest purpose, an indomitable will, by hardihood, self-command, and force of expression.
—Margaret Fuller
The truth which another man has won from nature or from life is not our truth until we have lived it. Only that becomes real or helpful to any man which has cost the sweat of his brow, the effort of his brain, or the anguish of his soul. He who would be wise must daily earn his wisdom.
—David Star Jordan

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