Conquering Self: The Growing Pains of Discipline

“But I don’t want to!”

I hear that complaint frequently from one of my children. It’s an age-appropriate response to a myriad of less-than-appealing tasks: cleaning up toys, getting ready for bed, trying certain foods, or ending playtime.

Plato Quote on Discipline

Most often, my response to my child’s complaint is a variation on the theme, “We all have to do things we don’t want to.”

After all, do I enjoy the many tasks I’m responsible for? Doing dishes four times a day? Changing poopy diapers? Administering discipline?

We choose to do unpleasant things because we know we must. We choose to do those things because we have foresight and know the consequences of our action or inaction. Sometimes because we’ve made a decision to love. Ultimately, we come to learn what’s good for us, and often that means self-denial.

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” 2Timothy 1:7 

The need for self-discipline manifests itself in so many ways in life. To master it, I think, is they key to much success in life, whether it’s growth in virtue, physical health, emotional stability, or fulfillment.

Like maturity, the skill does not materialize overnight, but becomes a lifelong series of fits, starts, and back steps that we hope ultimately move us in the right direction. Discipline is seldom, if ever, a once and done deal, whether we’re dealing with a child or with ourselves.

After all, “discipline,” derived from the Latin verb “disco,” has nothing to do with 70s music, flared pants, and mirrored balls. It translates as “I learn.” Discipline, discovery, and discipleship are all about learning. As such, we’d be better off embracing discipline than shunning it.

“You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons: ‘My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him;he scourges every son he acknowledges.'” Hebrews 12 5:6

So, as I rise early in order to get some exercise, pass on seconds or dessert, put down the book and go to bed, or write when the words don’t come easily, I’m growing in discipline and self-mastery. I’m one step closer to becoming the best version of myself, the person I am meant to be.


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