We recently had a breakthrough in the anger management class I teach. A rough guy in the back row spoke up and said, “Yeah, when someone disrespects you, you gotta defend yourself and defend your honor. You can’t help it.”  He sounded confident and tough, even proud, as he said it.

So I clarified, “What I’m hearing you say is that you can’t help yourself. When certain situations arise, you just react. You can’t help how you respond.”

“Yes, that’s right,” he said.

“Wow. That’s quite an admission,” I responded in a quiet voice. Long pause. “What an admission that you’re such a weak man that you can’t control yourself. A strong man can control himself and his responses. Only a weak man can’t control himself. That’s really quite an admission.”

He was shocked. What I had just said was the exact opposite of the prison culture where most of these guys come from. It was a huge and disorienting paradigm shift from him to suddenly see the definitions of strong and weak turned upside down. What they had thought was strong was actually weak. And what they saw as weak required great strength. That’s why one of the Fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Because that kind of strength can come only from God. You can’t pull it off by yourself– you need the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit.