How M&M’s teach self-control

Right before Thanksgiving, I shared my super secret strategy for enjoying my hostess duties. It involved a small bowl of M&M’s, remember? Those same candies taught me a valuable lesson in self-control.

I struggle with self-control.

It’s an issue around my favorite foods (like chocolate). But it’s also a struggle when I wander through Target, or when I lay in bed long after the alarm goes off, or when I play Candy Crush instead of cooking dinner, or when I let the kids watch a Pokemon marathon instead of making them home school.

It’s bad. I realized that there were things I don’t even TRY to accomplish because I felt I lack the self-control to see them through.

And so, I began to pray.

In part, my prayers were answered with a tiny bowl of M&M’s.

self control and chocolate

Self-Control is a Fruit of the Spirit.

It’s right there in Galatians along with all the other good stuff.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)

So when I started to pray in earnest about my self-control issues, I knew it was just a matter of time.

Chocolate created fruit.

(Okay, maybe that’s not spiritually precise, but I think you’ll get my point.)

Every time I walked by that bowl of M&M’s, I was tempted. I wanted chocolate. I knew the sweet chocolatey crunch in my mouth would be delicious. I could practically taste it!

But… I was saving up for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m still going to the gym multiple times a week and still working to lose weight. I’d made a deal with my trainer to follow “the rules” until I sat down for dinner on Thanksgiving day.  After that, he wouldn’t ask.

So I kept saying “no” to those M&M’s.  I kept telling myself that I’d rather have a heap of mashed potatoes than a tiny handful of candy. I kept reminding myself about pie… and mashed potatoes… and rolls… and pie.

My kids noticed. They would occasionally pass by the bowl and grab a handful of candy.  They even offered the stuff to me out of their (grubby) little hands.  I would just smile and tell them “no, thank you.”

Wow mom, you have a lot of self-control.

My husband noticed. As he watched me refill the bowl (yet again) he asked gently how many of them I’d eaten.  I was able to just smile and tell him “none, thank you.”

Wow hon, you have a lot of self-control.

Those words kept echoing in my head. While I was busy working on being Mary instead of Martha, God was busy answering my prayer for self-control.

By the end of the weekend, I saw myself in a very different light.  I realized…

I have self-control.

Instead of focusing on the one time I was too distracted to make dinner, I’ve been reminded of all the times I DO cook at home. I’ve thought about all the times I cook even when I’m not in the mood… even when there’s “nothing to eat” in the house… even when my kids beg to go out.

Instead of beating myself up for laying in bed after the alarm goes off, I’ve thought about the long string of 6am gym appointments that I’ve kept.

Instead of worrying about the Pokemon marathon, I’m thinking about the afternoons spent reading aloud, the unplanned math lesson on the art of tipping, the museum trips on summer vacation, and the prayerful discussion when my son confessed he was noticing the shape of pretty girls.

The “you have a lot of self-control” phrase kept echoing in my head. It rattled around and shook lose all the memories of when I actually DID have self-control. God used those words to change how I see myself.

how a bowl of chocolate can teach you self-control

It’s a game changer.

Last weekend, instead of wandering the aisles of Target looking for things to buy, I looked at the pretty things and said “no, thank you.”

Wow girl, you have a lot of self-control.

Last week, instead of eating the leftover mac and cheese, I ate a second helping of cabbage soup.

Wow girl, you have a lot of self-control.

Yesterday, instead of an online shopping frenzy for Christmas, I made a list and a budget first.  Then I stuck to it.

Wow girl, you have a lot of self-control.

It’s cumulative. Every time I use that self-control “muscle” it gets bigger and stronger. Every time I catch myself having self-control, the next time gets easier.

I’m sure I’ll mess up. I’m not perfect. I know that.

But it’s not about being perfect. It’s about having the self-control to get back up and try again when I’d rather wallow in failure. It’s about seeing the process and celebrating the victories.

It started with a tiny bowl of M&M’s to remind me to be Mary instead of Martha and it has turned into so much more!

Y’all. Go get a bowl of temptation and practice self-control. You’ll be so blessed.

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Focusing on the times we practice self-control can build us up rather than tear us down with self-deprecation. So good!

  2. I needed this reminder. Your story reminds me that I too do have self-control. I love that the bowl of M and Ms taught you that lesson. Thank you for being such a good example of self-control!

  3. I must comment. I went on a binge this past weekend. M&M Peanut (yes, a whole BIG bag) and a box of Russell Stover dark chocolates (no, not the whole box). Monday morning I knew my binge had to be over, the box of RS was still in the ‘frig but every time I see it, I say ‘no thank you, not this week’ and like you it is working. I love these M&M posts. xoxo

  4. That’s so awesome. Good for you! I feel the same way about motherhood and I think we all tend to beat ourselves up too much, but you are right! We need to focus on all of the things we do right, day in and day out! It is a lot of work to care for a family. And yes, despite how it feels sometimes, we do have self control 🙂

  5. Love it, we really tend to be too hard on ourselves and I am glad you are realizing that you do have self-control. God spoke to me a couple years ago that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and I need to pray about what I am struggling with and He will give me the self-control I need when I need it. The power is from His Spirit not myself.

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