From “America, the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates (1913) comes the principles of this post and its title. This phrase comes from the second verse of the song after requesting “God” to “mend thine every flaw.” While many will consider this either religious or political, the principles being discussed transcend labels and form the bedrock of good followership, which is simply being a good leader without the title and responsibility.
The principles of self-control are paramount to living in any society, but especially in the American Society consisting of a Constitutional Republic. For example, rules and laws exist in a society as they do throughout the universe because there is no right or wrong without them, and tumult, discord, terror, and chaos in the absence of rules and laws result. The principles of self-control will prevent those laws from ever needing to be enforced provided control of selfish desires are properly employed. According to Webster, self-control is all about controlling one’s own emotions and desires or the expression of those desires in one’s behavior.
Self-control is the foundation to freedom. There cannot be any society without self-control of the individual members and that requires a sense of morality. Lack of self-control forms barbaric societies where the biggest/strongest get their needs and appetites fed and everyone else can suffer. We see this style of thinking with President Bill Clinton and the long list of sexual appetites displayed, and President Obama through his long list of vacations, foods, and family trips, along with many other federal, state, and local politicians; lack of self-control leads to barbaric actions, feeds one’s own appetites to the detriment of all other societal members, and ultimately concludes with the frustration and destruction of society as a whole. Rome was a nation that tried to curb appetites using law not moral action, refusing to stress the need for individual self-control in all citizens as a paramount virtue, including its politicians, and fell gloriously. To avoid falling, America needs to remember self-control and the liberty created through proper self-control.
The concept of law being liberating is as foreign to many as saying, “War is kind,” a concept from the poet Stephen Crane. The concept of law as being liberating stems from the foundational principles of self-control and the lessons of Alexis de Tocqueville, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” John Adams said something very similar, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other;” thus, driving home the point that self-control is the first foundational building block of a moral society, the chief cornerstone, and the mortar upon which laws are cemented into the resulting society. If the mortar of self-control becomes cracked and splintered, the entire construction of society crumbles.
Consider ENRON and the debacle that occurred with this organization, which began with flaming success and crashed and burned into abject horror and misery. The business was originally built upon self-control, good leadership, and correct principles. Then, a new leader came into power who lacked self-control, refusing to follow established accounting principles, preferred to be a barbarian feeding individual appetites and lining his own pocket, and launched a meteoric rise in ENRON while also launching the demise and destruction of the same. When leaders lack self-control, followers will abandon self-control and follow the leader into destruction.
Self-control is difficult, but liberating. Self-control is a challenging taskmaster, and choosing to exercise self-control remains the chief lessons of childhood. Consider the story of the “Affluenza Teen;” because the parents did not teach self-control, self-restraint, and consequences for poor behavior, the child abandoned any sense of wrongdoing, and society now must take responsibility to teach the child how to behave. The “Affluenza Teen” learned that a lack of self-control is a good thing from the only teachers available, his parents. This is a replicating story in millions and millions of lives every single day in America currently. Lack of parental involvement advocating a lack of being held accountable and the only lesson learned being feed your appetite without restriction caused the “Affluenza Teen” less liberty, less freedom, and less ability to thrive. Appetites, desires, and passions must be controlled to enjoy liberty and freedom and discover other life enjoyments.
There remains a strong connection between self-control and liberty, so before God “may mend thine every flaw,” we must learn and teach self-control as the true path to freedom, as the only path to liberty, and as the main responsibility of societal members to other members in the same society. This means a return to morals and ethics as taught by religion; no, this does not advocate one religious belief system over another, as freedom of religion is a right. This means advocating for a return to religion from the wastes of “free love,” popularized in the 1960’s flower power generation, that has stripped America of much of her beauty. Those lacking self-control created multiple generations of Americans, who prefer to speak about “Rights” without shouldering any of the “Responsibilities.” Hence, self-control was the first victim of the 1960’s “Hippie Movement,” and self-control remains in the hospital on life support while society has crumbled, wilted, and died in the ensuing period of time.
In short, the chains of not possessing self-control are strong and choking the life out of American Society. We have lost liberty to government and bureaucrats of government. Those lacking self-control are honored and immortalized, e.g., “Kardashian’s,” “Clinton’s,” “Pelosi,” “Obama’s,” and so forth, while those with honor and integrity are scandalized and harangued, e.g., “Ronald Reagan,” “Benjamin Franklin,” “Robert E. Lee,” “Margaret Thatcher,” and so forth. Leaving politics and political affiliation out of the discussion, those with the most self-control enjoy the most liberty and those with the least self-control enjoy less liberty.
Some erroneously make the argument that they are freer for having less self-control except that the items being pointed to reflecting liberty are nothing more than selfish desires of the individual wanting the same appetite fulfillment. For example, according to tabloids and media, the “Kardashian’s” are symbols of sexual immorality and are filling this appetite. Sexual immorality is the epitome of enslavement and remains highly addictive. Sexual impropriety is life threatening. Sexual impropriety is an insatiable appetite, consuming everything good unless bridled, and controlled; but worst of all, sexual impropriety is mind altering leading from one perversion to another until the person is left an empty shell, damaged goods, unable to distinguish between right and wrong.
Where is liberty to be found? Control of appetites and passions has been handed down from the 1960’s as immoral, immaterial, old-fashioned, and out dated. Engaging in immoral, uncontrolled sexual permissiveness often leads to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood’s success rates are an indicator. How often does lack of sexual self-control lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a special website just for STD’s. The symptoms of no sexual self-control are all around us. Media companies advertise alcohol and sex with no control or limitations as a good thing and warn in the same commercial break of rampant problems from the lifestyle lacking self-control.
There is no freedom without sacrifice, no self-control without making decisions, no liberty without moral convictions tried and tested in the fires of unpopularity. The freedom and liberty found in self-control are not boring or uneventful, simply different from those lacking self-control. Those lacking self-control might find pleasure in the moment, but how pleasurable are hangovers from too much alcohol? How happy is an unwanted pregnancy? How happy are those with STD’s whose lives are permanently changed, affected, or outright destroyed? Let us take the words of this beautiful piece of music to heart, “… confirm thy soul with self-control” and find “… liberty in law” then we can rely upon “… God to mend thine every flaw.”
© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
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