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[It is] better to have self-control than to conquer a city
First and foremost, building strong character requires self-discipline. Self-discipline is the ability to do what's right, when you don't feel like it. Plato asserted, 'The first and best victory is to conquer self.' Yes, your greatest victories are internal ones. Bobby Jones was winning golf tournaments by age 12. But he had a temper. His nickname was 'club-thrower.' An older gentleman called Grandpa Bart recognised Jones' talent and his character issues. He said. 'Bobby, you're good enough to win, but you'll never win big until you control that temper of yours.' Jones did master his temper, and went on to win his first U.S. Open at 21. Grandpa Bart used to say, 'Bobby was 14 when he mastered golf, but he was 21 when he mastered himself.'
English theologian Henry Parry Liddon observed, 'What we do on some great occasion will probably depend on what we already are; and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline.' If you're serious about building strong character, set higher standards for yourself and refuse to lower them. Need a role model? You won't find a better one than Jesus. He said, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself' (Matthew 16:24 NIV). Each day look for an opportunity to say 'no' to yourself in some small area. Try it; you'll be surprised how hard it is. But the payoff will come when you need to say no to yourself in some big area of life. Like saving for a rainy day, you'll have spiritual strength to draw on when you need it.