THERE IS VALUE IN WAITING. And this waiting is borne out of the element of self-control, writes Rev Dr Mvume Dandala, patron of HEARTLINES.
“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence, 1967.
The South African struggle for democracy was defined by the self-control demonstrated by black South African’s who did not seek to destroy a country in order to vent at the oppressor. They did not target resources, they did not sabotage the utilities, for they realized that an anger displayed in such a fashion would only lead to their own detriment should they be victorious, and find they have inherited a shell of a county.
If it were not for their restraint in their actions, and if they had in their frustration embarked on a full-on civil war instead of a protracted struggle, where would we be as a country now, after twelve years of democracy?
Many more thousands of lives would have been claimed, and instead of the benefit of inheriting a country that is complete in itself, with its challenges yes, but with the capacity to be fully-developed, South Africa would not have held the promise it does today.
Self-control permeates through every aspect of our lives, from the school to places of worship, our homes and our businesses. In a culture of ‘now’, where instant gratification is what sells everything from stain-removers to on-line educational courses and information but a mouse-click away, we no longer have to wait for anything and we’re drugged on the convenience.
But there are some things that are always worth waiting for.
The entrepreneur, who just starts out, faces what seems like insurmountable challenges and it’s easy to give in to greed and pave the path to a perceived success with the stones of corruption and questionable business practices. But when that success is achieved with measured amounts of patience and the fortitude of self-control, it will be a sustainable success, one that will never be brought into question, one that can never be taken away from you.
A baby screams and cries when it’s hungry, for it is in its nature to do so, the instinct to survive so strong. And as we get older we learn the benefits of holding back, we teach our children to save their pocket money, so that the payoffs earned in the end are so much greater.
When we were young boys my father had an orchard and we would often climb the peach trees when no one looking. There were times when the fruit was still green, but that didn’t stop us and what ensued could have turned me off peaches for life. As I got older, I got to understand that there is a season when the fruit is ready – ripe, juicy and sweet – and that the wait for something better that was coming, was more than worthwhile.
This lesson that I learned i.e. to stop eating peaches that are green applies to most life aspect – economics, sex, education. School can be so painfully boring, but at the end of a term’s hard work, when you get an excellent report, the joy that you experience, cannot be surpassed.
But we fear our own children losing these lessons in self-control.
HIV/AIDS, STDs, teen pregnancy – the negatives to instant gratification, and yet our children are subject to mixed messages from the images that advertise to them, stripping sex of its sacred nature. We must take them back to the lessons – that there is value in waiting, that there is value in delaying-gratification, for when something is so easily claimed, how then can it hold it’s worth in the future?
And what of the vices we find ourselves kneeling to? Drugs and alcohol abuse; we use these as crutches to prop us up when we find ourselves faced with that which we can not control. And there will always be forces beyond our control, but it is our reaction and our response to these forces that is in essence what the value of self-control expounds -the strength of our characters and the might of our
Will that goes beyond what life throws at us, that steels us against the most disillusioning of circumstance.
Self-control and the value of waiting; what a nation we could build if these defined our mindsets.
Rev Mvume H Dandala is General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, former Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, and is the recipient of the Presidential Order of the Baobab (Silver) for his peace-making role in South Africa.