The Semantics of Discipline

When I think of discipline I think of punishment.  Discipline is a consequence of bad decisions, mistakes, behaviors that are wrong. Discipline means loss of privileges or having something you enjoy withheld from you.  For me, discipline is something to be avoided.

However, in my new pursuit of a disciplined lifestyle, I am beginning to understand that discipline has another meaning; a meaning that is helpful and that produces good things not just a one word description of pain or punishment.

Merriam-Webster defines discipline in six ways:

1. punishment
2. instruction
3. a field of study
4. training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
5. a. control gained by enforcing obedience or order b. orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior c. self-control
6. a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity

Interesting, out of six possible definitions only one has to do with punishment. The other five refer to training, education, learning, practice, order, governing, self-control. I mean, who doesn’t want to perfect their “mental faculties”?

Also interesting that the first definition is, in fact, punishment. Probably because that is how most people think of discipline. But for this season of my life, as I am trying to see the good in discipline, I think its time for me to throw out that first definition and focus more on the other 5.

If I only think of discipline in terms of punishment, I am never going to move past that and embrace the qualities of a disciplined lifestyle. I have to start thinking of discipline in terms of instruction, training, self-governing and self-control.

After my last post on the pain of discipline, a friend sent me this Bible verse:

Hebrews 12:11 – “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

At least Scripture validates that discipline isn’t fun and does, in fact, seem painful.  I also see in this verse a combination all six definitions of discipline as defined above.

As I meditate on this verse, I think to myself “I need a trainer to train me to be disciplined.” A response from within me says, “You already have a trainer. As a Christ follower saved by grace, you have the Spirit of God living IN you to train you.”

I believe this, but if I am being honest, I need more. I need the Holy Spirit to get in my face like a drill sergeant. I need the Holy Spirit to go with me to the gym, to the grocery store, to the super bowl party I’m attending later today and bark orders at me, training me, instructing me, spurring me on to stay the course.

I am SO GLAD that God sends His very Spirit to live IN us when we believe on his Son for Salvation; but sometimes I wish the Spirit would also live in my HEAD and train me on how to stop hating discipline.

The voice from within me emerges once again with the “right answer” to that statement, “Memorize scripture and let the Word of God transform and renew your mind.”  Its true. The Bible says so.

Therefore, if in addition to punishment, discipline means training, study, learning, practicing, self-governing, self-control, and obedience; perhaps I do need to forget the punishment part of discipline and begin again; this time focusing not on the do’s and don’ts of a disciplined life, but on memorizing scripture that will transform my mind.

The sad part is that, I KNOW this. I’ve known it for years. Doing it, well, that is the whole point of discipline being my one word. I have lacked the self-discipline required to memorize verses and let my mind be transformed.

So if you are going to call me out and hold me accountable, don’t ask me how many calories I burned at the gym or what I ate for dinner last night. Ask me if I’ve memorized Hebrews 12:11 as listed above AND verses 12-13:

Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.

 

 

 

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