Discipline has a few meanings, but in this post I’ll be talking about holding yourself to a standard of behavior even when you don’t want to.
Discipline is not easy or particularly fun. Sometimes we think discipline is just saying “no” to something so we can have something better later. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it is saying no so we can benefit by not having something. Sometimes discipline isn’t even about saying no. It can be about saying “yes” so that you’ll get something done.
Sometimes we say no to a temptation. It sure would be fun to do, but in the end would only cause grief and more trouble than it is worth. In saying no, you benefit from not having or not doing something.
Sometimes we say yes to something we don’t want to do. If it needs to be done and it is good if it is done, roll up your sleeves and say yes. You will benefit from having and doing something.
Discipline is something we need to practice. Practice usually starts small and gets bigger as you go along. I am by no means an expert on discipline, but I wanted to share how I practice it. This is not an extensive, exhaustive explanation. It is not the best you’ll ever find, and I’m sure I’ll improve on it and change as I age. This is just what I have for now.
Sometimes I practice by saying no to something that wouldn’t hurt to have. I don’t need it, but it doesn’t hurt if I have it. For example, dessert. (No! Not the dessert!) Sometimes you just say, I’ve had enough to eat and I don’t need dessert this time. Sometimes you say, I’ve had enough to eat and I don’t need seconds. Could I eat more? Yes. Do I always need to? No. Will it hurt either way? Usually not, but sometimes one answer is better than the other.
Sometimes I practice by saying yes to something I don’t want to do. If I notice I’m trying to avoid washing the dishes after dinner, I offer to help with the dishes and then do help. If I notice I’m trying to avoid work in general, I go get something done. Here’s a hard one: when my room is cold and my bed is warm, I have a lot of trouble making myself stay awake and get out of bed!
Discipline is not something you will get right all the time. I fail at even small practice. It’s frustrating to practice discipline. Sometimes I don’t like it. Sometimes I just do what I want regardless of it’s end results. Take a look at how Paul puts the struggle in Romans 7:15 onward (start earlier in the chapter for context, around verse 4). But remember that discipline isn’t something you do alone. God is the reason for your standards and God is your help for them. And if you are faithful in a little, you’ll be more able and ready to take on more (Luke 16:10-11).