Summary: All the boldness and knowledge in the world will not keep a man from going down in defeat if he lacks self-control.

In 1949 the Honorable Harold R. Medina was the judge who

presided at the trial of 11 communists charged with plotting to

overthrow our government by force. In his book Power To Become

Lewis Dunnington gives an account of an interesting sidelight to that

great trial. For 9 months the judge was plagued with every possible

trick to cause a mistrial. Insolence and disorder were common in

the courtroom, but judge Medina with great patience refused to do

anything to cause a mistrial. Then the communists learned of a

weakness he had. He was afraid of high places. He had had

acrophobia all his life, but had kept it under control even though his

courtroom was on the 22 floor of the courthouse, and his apartment

was many stories up as well.

Nevertheless, it was a real fear, and the communists took full advantage

of it. Shortly before the trial began Secretary of Defense

James B. Forrestal had jumped to his death. You can imagine judge

Medina's shock when he came to the courthouse and found pickets

walking back and forth chanting, "Medina will fall like Forrestal."

Only those with a phobia can appreciate the problem this caused for

the judge. As this continued day after day he could not escape his

fear, and it became an obsession.

He asked his wife, even on hot summer nights, to keep the

bedroom windows closed. In court one day, after hearing the chant

again, his head began to swim. He quickly recessed the court and

went to a couch. He prayed as he never prayed before that he would

gain control of himself, and escape the control of his fear. His

request was granted, and with renewed confidence he returned to

court and saw the trial to a conclusion, which put the communist

behind bars. It was a victory for the nation, and a personal victory

for judge Medina.

He had courage and he had knowledge, but without self-control

all could have been lost. All the boldness and knowledge in the

world will not keep a man from going down in defeat if he lacks

self-control. The Apostle Peter knew this to be a fact from personal

experience, and that is why he urges Christians to add to their

courage and knowledge self-control. Lacking this virtue in his own

earlier experience, he denied his Lord, and several times rushed

ahead of Christ and needed to be rebuked.

Another Peter, Peter the Great, was a bold conqueror and a man

of knowledge. He passed many laws for the protection of his

subjects, but he was often subject to maniacal outbursts of anger. In

fury he struck and killed his gardener and his own son. With great

sorrow he said, "Alas! I have civilized my own subjects, I have

conquered other nations, yet I have not been able to conquer and

civilize myself. Anyone of us can be greater than Peter the Great,

for the truly great ruler is the man who is king of himself.

This is a truth that has been universally recognized. If we turn

to the Orient we read Lao-Tsze who wrote, "He is strong who

conquers others; he who conquers himself is mighty." If we turn to

the Greeks we read Aristotle saying, "I count him braver who

overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the

hardest victory is the victory over self." If we turn to the Romans

we read Seneca saying, "He is most powerful who has power over

himself. If we turn to modern statesman, philosophers, and poets,

they all agree that self-control is an essential quality for success.

Shelly and one of his sonnets writes-

Man who man would be,

Must rule the empire of himself, in it

Must reign supreme, establishing his throne

On vanquished will, quelling the anarchy

Of hopes and fears, being himself alone.

Self-control is so essential to the success of any pursuit that it is

even a virtue among evil men. Successful crooks are those who

develop self-control. They have to be able to remain calm as the

night watchman makes his rounds, and as they hide behind

merchandise. They must have nerves of steel when the alarm goes

off in the bank. As soon as a thief loses his nerve and lets emotion

take over, he kills or gets killed, or makes foolish moves that lead to

his capture. You cannot even be a successful crook without the

virtue of self-control. Satan encourages his troops to add this virtue

to their equipment, just as Christians are urged to add it to theirs.

Whatever your goal, it is easier to reach it through self-control.

Burns expressed this in A Bard's Epitaph.

Reader, attend! whether thy soul

Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole,

Or darkling grubs this earthly hole

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