An autistic person’s guide to the fruit of the Spirit
Part 9: Self-control
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
“Self-control—or the ability to subdue one’s impulses, emotions, and behaviours to achieve long-term goals—is what separates modern people from their ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom.” Psychology Today.
Autism and self-control
“You have no self-control,” they said to me. I had lost it once again, another autistic meltdown. It looked bad. A grown man behaving like a toddler having a tantrum is a very scary thing. But they do not realise what I went through before the meltdown
A meltdown is not anger, no matter how angry I look or aggressive I sound I am not going to physically assault anyone. My brain has no shutdown. Conversations from all around are always on, as is traffic noise. Bright light is physically painful and flickering light such as ageing fluorescent tubes is more than distracting. Coping with the 21st Century is not my strong point.
As far as a meltdown is concerned, yes I am out of control, an overloaded brain cannot control impulse. I am supposed to be talking about the Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control but have to admit that I do not have any self-control when in meltdown. People see the meltdown as typical behaviour, but it is not. It is a reaction to over stimulus. Coping with what I have to put up with being autistic takes a great deal of self-control, much more than the detractors can imagine.
(Writing about meltdowns is in itself stressful, thinking back on meltdowns has actually brought on a meltdown. Fortunately, I write somewhere quiet and was able to go through it.)
Give a bully assertiveness training and what you have is a better bully. Self-belief is a great thing when you are right, but what if you are wrong? Assertiveness training is good in that it empowers people, and a lot of people benefit from it.
Assertiveness, when done right, is amazing. A friend has a child who shows all the signs of being on the autistic spectrum. Help is supposed to be forthcoming, but she is being stopped at every turn my more rules and regulations than would fit in a red-tape factory.
She bought a new outfit for the last meeting, power dressing and going armed with two files, one about what has, and has not been done for her child and one with all the actual regulations in, so when she was told what was being done she was able to point out what should legally be done. Things did move to the next stage. But she is lucky to have a job where she is flexible. She also says she is shattered by the experience, She said before that meeting that she was fuming, but was able to control that/
Your own personal internal ASBO
Self-control is a self-imposed restraining order, your ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order.) When you are self-controlled you will not lash out immediately but will keep it back. Planning your revenge is self-control or in the words of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, “Me want it but me wait.”
This is where we get to God (via the Cookie Monster, I know), God knows the dark side of self-control and God tells us not to take vengeance at all, but to leave it to him. If I have been hurt then it matters, I don’t want the other party to get away with it, I demand that they will pay for what they’ve done. When I hear God say, ‘Revenge is mine, I will repay,’ I know that they will not get away with it any more than I will get away with what I have done. God is justice.
God deals with it his way. God in Jesus Christ became human and paid the price for the hurt done to me and the hurt done by me. God treats us the same, God forgives me, God forgives the person who hurt me and God says I must forgive the person who hurt me, even the driver of the car that crippled me. Forgiveness is offered to us on the condition that we pass it on.
Self-control is scary
After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgement, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”
Acts 24:24–25 ESVUK
To those in power, self-control is scary. It scared Felix. Being self-controlled means a leader cannot, like the Red Queen in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. shout ‘Off with his head.” It scares absolute rulers, even provincial absolute rulers under Rome like Felix, tho be confronted with someone with more self-control than you have. That is part of the dark side of self-control, it makes you difficult to deal with, you will not be fobbed off easily.
God is self-controlled. The fruit of the Spirit are aspects of the nature of God. In the same way that we can say God is love we can also say God is joy or God is self-control. We grow in self-control as we live according to how the Holy Spirit leads. This can be as simple as praying ‘Come Holy Spirit’ in a stressful situation.
The miracle of forgiveness
Gods kingdom is not of this world. If it were Christians would be carrying weapons, marching the streets and threatening violence*. That should never happen, because that is not the way of God. God’s way is the way of forgiveness of people who do not deserve forgiveness. People like me. It is my place to forgive those who have hurt me, to forgive those I would rather see dead–I have a list. But as I pray Come Holy Spirit the need for vengeance goes. That is the miracle of forgiveness, the bitterness and need for revenge has gone. It is not easy, I have had constant pain for the last (almost) 14 years.
As for autism, meltdown and shutdown are not natural states for autistic people and are caused by overstimulation. Outside these unnatural states, autistic people are good at managing their moods and self-controlled.
*From the @JesusOfNaz316 Twitter feed, 23 January 2020
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