- fewer behavior problems
- better social skills
- higher SAT scores
- higher rate of college completion
- greater incomes
The scientific testing began with a few kindergartners plus a marshmallow minus the adult supervision. They told the kiddos that if they didn't eat the marshmallow when the adult left the room for awhile, they could have the marshmallow and even more when they returned. Then the psychologists left the room to observe little kids left to their temptation by sweet confections.
The scientists chose tasty food to test for impulse control — it is the barometer of all barometers. Isn't that what they tell us not to reward ourselves with? Is there a celebration on planet Earth without it? Even the heavenly celebrations we know about will include a banquet.
Food is a powerful thing.
Satan tempted Eve with it. Jesus, too, come to think of it. Esau sold his birthright for it. And Herod was mortified when his daughter-in-law chose the head of John the Baptist instead of it. It never occurred to him that she might want something other than delicious delicacies atop her silver platter. Food is the pleasure of all pleasures. Those in powerful positions know it, and those with little impulse control find it out soon enough.
But mastering our impulses is also a powerful thing. Especially considering Christians have the resident Holy Spirit to enable us. Especially when part of his fruit is self-control. (And we are not supposed to eat this one either, we're supposed to produce it.)
The sociological model for impulse control involves three components: perception of a given situation, calculation of a strategy (reason), and the execution of the strategy (will power). Social models of the past have emphasized the second stage, but failed to adequately teach impulse control. Then the third phase, will power, was encouraged, and that, too, fell flat. Specialists now know that the crucial stage is the perception stage for there to be successful and consistent impulse control.
Seeing a situation rightly sets us up for success. It allows us to engage and strengthen our reasoning regarding the situation (stage 2) and the will-power to act on the truth (stage 3).
God was exasperated with Israel over this very thing:
Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 12:2)
This was among God's charges against Israel when he sent them into exile in Babylon, the very circumstances in which Daniel found himself. And what did Daniel do? He chose to deny himself the king's choice foods. The young Jewish boy passed on the marshmallow.
Perhaps Daniel heeded the word of the Lord and began to see things as God saw them. Perhaps Daniel was exercising impulse control that started by rightly perceiving the potential power food can hold over us. Perhaps for Daniel — and me — seeing it any other way would have been rebellion against God.
I am convinced the smartest thing for me to do is start passing on the marshmallows as a way of life.
~ ~ ~
Daniel Fast Reflections From the Beginning:
Day 1 :: Food
Day 2 :: Slow
Day 3 :: Foreign
Day 4 :: Hunger
Day 5 :: Life
Day 6 :: Free
Day 7 :: Praise
Day 8 :: Respond
Day 9 : Interruption
Day 10 :: Prayer
Day 11 :: Answer
Day 15 :: Taste
Day 16 :: Control