Everyone has a struggle with discipline in one or more areas of life. None of us are exempt.
We all have recognized one or two “problem areas” that keep us from achieving our ideal. These are the areas where discipline seems to be a dirty word.
It is discipline, that gives us the capacity to become greater. So, as we think of discipline this year let’s look at it from the frame work of discipleship.
The word discipline has origin in the Latin (discipulus, disciplina). The English word for disciple comes from this same root.
When we enter college level study we are given a choice of “disciplines” to practice for the rest of our lives. Our specific college of study specializes, or develops the curriculum that disciplines our thinking, our response, and cultures our world view.
The academic board deliberately chooses the coursework we must complete, in order to graduate. Once we accomplish this level of disciplined work, we are given credentials, which verify our ability to continue in the discipline, whether we go into the workforce, or head into a master level program. These activities and structured study, give the individual trained in it, or by it, the credentials to lead and influence a broader audience. An example of this would be a doctor who spends hours, years bringing his or her abilities, in a specialized area, to a level of expertise that will allow them to operate, diagnose, or treat with the degree of accuracy that is far beyond the average person.
If we look into any occupation, any arena of life, we will see expressions of discipline, or lack there of.
In the world of sports, athletes spend 6 plus hours a day, bringing their body and minds subject to their particular athletic occupation. Body Builders spend hours in study, and disciplining their body before they come on stage. Their Physique reveals the level of discipline they have mastered, to compete. The average athlete spends a minimum of 40 hours a week in training. Elite athletes like Serena Williams spend at least 10k hours a year in training.
There was a phrase bantered around in the early to mid nineties “I want to be like Mike” (Michael Jordan). After hearing portions of his story over the years, I wonder if our admiration would meet the level of commitment, discipline needed to be “like Mike.”
Could we suffer the level of rejection, practicing in the rain, staying behind to work on skill instead of hanging out? Maybe we don’t want to “be like Mike”, maybe we just want what he has, without the work it takes to get there.
Tiger Woods in his prime would practice thousands of hours on just his putt. Coby Bryant would stay after practice to work on his jump shot. Muhammad Ali would discipline himself, to the point of pain, to perfect his craft. I believe Ali earned his title“the greatest” through discipline.
If we truly consider what it took for these great athletes, and highly skilled individuals to obtain the level of skill and notoriety they have, we must acknowledge that some portion of their success, was due to their commitment, to self-discipline. Bringing their knowledge and strengths under the direction of a trainer, a tutor, a mentor. Those who chose the route of self-discipline took the guidance given them, and implemented it on a daily basis.
Venus and Serena’s (Tennis Phenoms) Father Richard, in a interview a few years ago, discussed his training and development of the “girls” He told the reporter, that he trained his girls to develop a strong work ethic at two years of age.
“ their mother got upset about it, but Venus and Serena delivered phone books.”
Richard Williams took that same mindset about work ethic and discipline to the tennis court. Venus and Serena were developing their tennis skills by the age of eight.
The successes e.g. Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, YoYo MA, Bill Gates, Robert F. Smith, stay in success mode, by continually submitting themselves to learning, training, and implementing what they have acquired. They stay in the process of personal discipleship (discipline).
In short these ordinary people became extraordinary, through continuing to remain teachable, focusing what they have learned, and putting it into practice. This behavior of discipline, becomes a lifestyle, of self-discipline the world admires.
Apostle Paul tells his followers that discipline (self-Control) is a “fruit of the Spirit.” He encourages his followers to discipline their minds as well as their bodies, that they may win the prize. He compared spiritual maturity to a disciplined athlete. He admonished, to never loose focus of the goal, always discipline fleshly appetites that could take from them the success sought after, and never let complaint master your soul.
When, or if a follower could master these disciplines, and master his/her tongue, while remaining focused on righteous endeavors, the disciple (disciplined one), according to Paul would become an expression of the mature, true Christ, and not a counterfeit.
So, are we coveting or committed?
There are individuals who would rather take what others have, instead of working for their own place in life.
Instead of disciplining ourselves to become great at something, which requires time in training, and honing our skill, we settle for the mediocre. This acceptance of subpar living, leaves us comfortable in complacency. Complacency leads to soul death.
(My phrase, another post).
Coveting allows us to produce habits of laziness, without accountability. It blinds us to the truth about our innate selfish behavior. It gives us a false positive, concerning our rights. We take what we did not earn. We live under false pretenses, and allow our hearts to become the breeding ground for jealousy, hatred, and treacherous behavior.
Commitment on the other hand allows us to recognize the requirement of discipline, in achievement, or success. Commitment is an understanding of the goal, and what it will take for us to get there.
Commitment allows us to enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment. *There have been scientific studies that found, endorphins, are released when an individual accomplishes a task set towards a goal.*
Commitment/ Discipline is a natural antidepressant.
We are all given a gift which will bring the people around us life, enjoyment, peace, and understanding. But, we (the carriers of said gift), have the responsibility to discipline ourselves, so that we can bring the most complete offering of our gift to the world.
With so many distractions in our world today, I believe the most difficult thing to do is stay focused. There are so many things fighting for our attention e.g. social media, family, friends, places of employment, public opinion, private pain.
We have within each of these areas subsets of what I call micro-aggressive needs that pull at our attention continually, begging us to make each one a priority.
A micro aggressive need is a need that is constantly fighting for room in your conscience mind. It is a thought or attitude, that constantly nags at your emotion for expression. Some of these micro aggressions can be in the form of frustrations at work with a coworker, the frustration of the long commute from your home to your office, or maybe it’s a frustrating feeling of not being heard. Whatever these micro-aggressions may be, when they go unrecognized, or improperly handled, these aggressions can keep us at a standstill, when it comes to our individual productivity.
Let me share an example.
A husband and his wife keep reaching an impasse about how the bills should be handled, she believes he should pay bi-weekly because this would keep them ahead financially and on top of the bills. The husband believes that monthly payment on the major bills is just fine. Over the course of time, this seemingly small difference has become a source of contention for the couple. The more each one tries to explain their reasoning for how they each view paying the bills, each feels the frustration of their internal needs not being met.
These needs, not necessarily in their conscience minds, affect their communication and comprehension of the issue. Instead of the need for an effective system of bill payment being established (the original need) the micro aggressive need, for one to be heard, and the other to be taken seriously, has moved their focus, and the original concern goes unresolved.
Sometimes we will spend hours even days mulling over what someone has said, because we value the relationship. I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes before I pass judgement. (unfortunately not always successful). After spending time working through the process of feelings, perspectives, cultural world views, each of which have their own subsets of micro-aggressions, We may come to realize that the things nagging us about our disagreement, often have to do with constant (micro aggressive) need(s) that keep coming to the surface interfering with the present situation.
I believe family and employment should be near the top of the list of priorities.
As always though, there is a balance to maintain.
Investing the time it takes to focus inwardly, will eventually reward you outwardly. Once you have located the issue within, you and I can start to make better choices leading to the results we desire. On the opposite side of things, if our better choices don’t lead to better results, we should no longer obligate ourselves to situations, or people who are not giving the same effort and attention needed for growth, and change.
For example: My daughter and I have disagreements. Once I locate the micro-aggressive need, that isn’t always in my conscience mind. I can then, with the help of God, and others, find a way to meet this need, in a manner that isn’t destructive to myself or those around me.
My daughter and I can find the place of common ground. Once I have changed my focus for this need being met, and my circumstance, or situation doesn’t change, then I am no longer obligated to invest my time, or focus on our disagreement. I must then begin to protect, value the emotional, mental and spiritual capital I have, and begin to focus on how I can flourish, not settle the argument.
Taking back our attention from things that don’t benefit us emotionally or spiritually is a task, but it is well worth it to invest our energies else where.
Jesus, who is considered a prophet by some, the anointed savior by others, has been quoted as saying, don’t cast your pearls to swine, because they will turn, and tear you and your pearls apart. I believe pearls, can represent, wisdom, or something that took decades to posses and form. Jesus is saying in short, no longer give what is precious, of high value to those who don’t choose to value it. He also gives a parable to his followers concerning a tree that a gardener had tended for a year or more. The owner of the garden visited, possibly on several occasions, and found no fruit. The tree had not produced. The owner of the garden decided that it was a waste of resources to keep, watering the soil, providing nutrients, and pulling away dead things hindering its growth. The owner felt that the gardener’s time, which he also paid for, could be better used, and a better investment of his financial resources, if the gardener would invest his efforts on the trees that were producing.
In the story the gardener pleaded with the owner to give him a little more time. The owner agreed with the stipulation, that if the tree did not bear fruit within the agreed upon time frame, it would be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Our focus, and our lives are like that tree. We have heard it said that whatever we focus on will grow. What we give our focus to will be the thing that influences our lives. Our decision making process, our perspective, eventually guide us to the places and people in our lives, that will either propel us into a place of prosperity, or deplete our resources, just as the tree had done in the parable Jesus told his followers.
May I recommend, as we are entering 2019, that we take the time needed to review our lives/ourselves. Take time to locate those things, those situations that pulled the focus away from what we needed to produce our desired outcomes. Let’s take these last few days of 2018, and evaluate where our lives may have “gotten off track.” Make the adjustments needed, so we can flourish in 2019.