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What is your greatest challenge? You may have a number of struggles in mind. Perhaps it’s an overwhelming situation that you’re facing that seems impossible. Solomon, the primary author of the book of Proverbs, gives the example of capturing a city as a difficult undertaking. He observes; however, there is an even greater challenge,

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

Solomon points out that demonstrating self-control over your spirit is a greater accomplishment than capturing a city. The importance of controlling your emotions is a recurring theme in the book of Proverbs,

He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit. (Proverbs 25:28)

A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)

The New Testament also gives a strong warning concerning controlling one’s emotions, especially anger,

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

You will encounter people who seem determined to annoy you, frustrate you, and even cause you harm. You cannot change their intentions but you can control your response to their actions. As Robert E. Lee looked for leaders, he wisely remarked, “I cannot trust a man to control others if he cannot control himself.”

You may have a number of worldly accomplishments, but are you able to control yourself? You may find that your greatest challenge may be to control your emotions. No man is truly free who is not able to reign in his emotions. We must realize that the person who conquers others is mighty, but the one who conquers himself is invincible. Self rule is even nobler than rule over others.

John Milton made this observation in Paradise Regained,

Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king—
Which every wise and virtuous man attains;

If you do not conquer yourself, then you will be conquered by yourself. The good news is that you have control over your thoughts and your actions. Conversely, you must keep in mind that you do not have control over the thoughts and emotions of others. Plato wrote, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” The ability to control your emotions can be the deciding factor between success or failure. The Apostle Paul gives us helpful advice as we keep our emotions in check,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

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