To submit is to put under, to place underneath. In a relational sense, we associate submission with our willingness to defer to others in community, to obey and/or align ourselves with them. Yet the primary community we must first learn to submit to is our future selves, the people we will be next hour, next day, next week, next month, next year … and ultimately our true eternal self (He 12:22-23), who we will be in eternity. This community comprises ourselves, and we must learn to submit to it.
The alternative to submitting to ourselves is to place no rules upon ourselves at all, to exercise no control over ourselves. Yet, the more we neglect to govern ourselves, the more we destroy our own ability to do so. (Pr 5:22) To be unable to control ourselves is certainly not good (Pr 25:28), unless all our natural impulses happen to be what we truly want for ourselves in the long run, which is generally not the case.
Before we can rightly submit ourselves to God (Ja 4:7), or to someone else (Ep 5:21), we must first be willing and able to submit to ourselves, to control ourselves, to make choices which our future selves will approve and appreciate.
In order to submit to ourselves we must be able to recognize when an impulse or desire isn’t what we truly want for ourselves, and we must be able and willing to deny any impulse when we perceive our future selves will not approve. We must learn to recognize the consequences our future selves will likely experience from our current choices and choose wisely, ordering our steps so our future selves will tend to prosper and succeed rather than suffer and fail. (Pr 22:3)
This is obviously on a spectrum; we may align many, or even most of our choices with our future selves, but we may consistently make certain types of choices which are misaligned with our future selves, which we know are not good for us, which we know most all of our future selves will regret.
For example, if we’re frustrated, embarrassed or depressed because we’re overweight or in poor health due to poor diet and/or lack of exercise, we’re very likely making short-term, impulse decisions in the moment which we ourselves don’t actually want, and the root cause is we’re unwilling to control and harness our own immediate appetites and desires and submit to ourselves, that community comprised of all our future selves who depend explicitly upon our current choices. To the degree we’re unwilling to submit to and care for our own selves we’re showing lack of respect, trust and love for ourselves.
If we don’t even respect and love ourselves, how can we love and respect God? (1Jn 4:20) or others? Loving, fearing and obeying God is where we begin to live life as we should, and we all need His mercy and grace to do so. (He 4:16) This leads us to loving and respecting ourselves because God loves and respects us (De 14:1-2), which then leads to loving and respecting others. (Le 19:18)
We call this self-control, temperance, personal discipline: the ability to govern ourselves. This is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. (Ga 5:23) which we should be adding to our faith regularly and with all diligence. (2Pe 1:5-7) As we face the daily choices in living our lives, we should be asking: What would my future selves want me to choose right now? (He 12:1) We live our best life by continually choosing what our best selves want. This is the life of no regret.
When there’s an area of our life where we’re consistently making poor choices, choices we eventually regret making, if we love ourselves, we must try to understand why we’re doing this. What beliefs do we hold about the consequences of our choices which our repeated life experience is telling us are lies? Find out what these lies are and seek help from God (Ps 119:29) and others to align ourselves with truth as well as we know it. (Ja 5:16)
To the degree we’re able to master ourselves (1Co 9:27) we can properly position ourselves to serve God and others. Our best self, the Christ life within us, wants what’s best for us (Ep 5:29), so we must be willing to submit to ourselves, and also to learn how to be good masters to ourselves. (Ep 6:9)
And for the child of God, the choices our eternal self approves, the one living in the infinite, glorious presence of God Himself, will indeed be those which God Himself approves. (1Jn 3:2)