|Baker Publishing Group
|5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.30(d)
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Discipline is what moderns need the most and want the least.
Too often young people who leave home, students who quit school, husbands and wives who seek divorce, church members who neglect services, employees who walk out on their jobs are simply trying to escape discipline. The true motive may often be camouflaged by a hundred excuses, but behind the flimsy front is the hard core of aversion to restraint and control.
Much of our restlessness and instability can be traced to this basic fault in modern character. Our overflowing asylums and hospitals and jails are but symptoms of an undisciplined age. There may be many secondary causes and there may be many secondary cures, but somewhere behind them all is the need for discipline. The kind of discipline needed is far deeper than the rule of alarm clocks and time cards; it embraces self-restraint, courage, perseverance, and resiliency as the inner panoply of the soul.
The Place of Discipline in Christian Living
Discipline the Key to Power
When Personal Power Tells
The superior power and efficiency of disciplined character are seen especially in great crises, times of sickness or bereavement, or financial adversity. A woman in Boston approached the very brink of nervous collapse through strain and overwork. She was unable to sleep, and was tortured with the sensation of crawling things on her skin, which gave rise to an almost irresistible urge to claw at her own flesh. When she was hospitalized, the doctor told her frankly that, whatever drugs might be given, the conquest of the condition depended on hermental self-control, and her ability to refrain from scratching. Years of discipline came to her rescue. She lay quietly, holding her arms by her side, when her whole nervous system wanted to scream and writhe. After a few days the condition subsided and the recuperative powers of enforced rest soon sent her home a well woman.
The discipline of mind and body which was demanded was made possible by years of habitual self-control and intelligent direction in her total life. Disciplined character paid dividends. Weak character would have succumbed to the imperious clamoring of the nervous system, and a long and tragic mental break would have been the result. This is not to imply that prolonged physical or mental illness is always a proof of weak character, but it does suggest that in many cases such complete breakdowns could be prevented if there were the background of disciplined character to handle the situation wisely and in time.
Too often modern doctors practice in weak concession to the spineless self-indulgence of modern character, by avoiding those methods which impose self-discipline on the patient. It is easier to prescribe the things they know the patient would like to do, such as "taking it easier," or taking sweet-tasting nostrums, or maybe going on a trip, when possibly down in their hearts they know that none of these palliatives touch the real need.
Disciplined character belongs to the person who achieves balance by bringing all his faculties and powers under control. There are order, consistency, and purpose in his life. As a result he has poise and grace. He does not panic, nor does he indulge in maudlin self-pity when tossed by crosscurrents. He rises courageously, even heroically, to meet life and conquer it. He resolutely faces his duty. He is governed by a sense of responsibility. He has inward resources and personal reserves which are the wonder of weaker souls. He brings adversity under tribute, and compels it to serve him. When adversity becomes too overwhelming and blows fall which he cannot parry, he bows to them, but is not broken by them. His spirit still soars. The strong character of Madame Guyon enabled her, though imprisoned, to rise in spirit and sing:
My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly.
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart's at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.
Of course there is power in such a life!
Furthermore, only the disciplined character can carry through in the positions of larger responsibility. This is true in industry, education, religion. Many have ambitions which are never realized, goals which are never reached, aspirations for usefulness which are never fulfilled, visions which never materialize. While the failure may at times be due to limited ability, too often the deficiency is not in native endowment but in character. The capacity for grueling application is lacking. There may be the promising start, but not the discipline required to carry through. Even if by good fortune or "pull" the undisciplined man should reach the position of power, he cannot maintain it, for he is not inwardly prepared. He collapses under the weight of responsibility, and the pressure and complexity of detail. He lacks the strength of leadership, the fullness of knowledge, the soundness of judgment, which can only be built up bit by bit through years of painstaking toil.
Many a young person would like to become a doctor or a top-flight scientist but never will, simply because he will not buckle down to the demanding years of hard study. Many young people would like to achieve artistry and mastery in music but they never will, simply because they will not face the long hours of monotonous practice year after year. They may through natural talent become singers or pianists of a sort, but they will not pay that extra price for true excellence. They are too lazy and self-indulgent to propel themselves to the top. Their ambitions may not be beyond their capacity, but they are beyond their discipline. The world is full of naturally brilliant people who never rise above mediocrity because they will not make the sacrifice which superiority requires.
I heard Igor Gorin, the famous Ukrainian-American baritone, admit in a radio interview that, while he started his conservatory training with a large class of promising young people, only one or two actually reached the top because, he said, the others were not willing to make the sacrifices that were required and submit themselves to the grind of years of rugged self-denial. Some fell in love and got married; some just became weary of the monotony and regimentation; others became homesick and returned home. Finally the ranks were thinned down to a very, very few. In the interview Mr. Gorin related a personal experience. He said that he had loved to smoke a pipe. But one day his professor of voice said to him, "Igor, you will have to make up your mind whether you are going to be a great singer or a great pipe smoker. You cannot be both." So the pipe went. Igor Gorin was willing to pay the price for mastery; others were not.
The edge possessed by the disciplined over the undisciplined shows up in many little things. The disciplined person picks up his clothes; the undisciplined lets them lie. One washes the bathtub after himself; the other leaves the high-water mark for someone else to scrub. One plans his work and works to his plan; the other works haphazardly. One is habitually prompt in his appointments; the other is notoriously tardy. Some people are always on time at church, while others never are. Observers of many years' experience will support the claim that the difference cannot be explained in the greater distance to travel or larger families to hustle. The difference is habit, and habit is character.
But the prizes go to the neat, the thoughtful, the systematic, the thrifty, the punctual. The brilliant lad who lives by his wits may dazzle his way to prominence, but sooner or later he is sure to sleep while the tortoise waddles past him. A boy who was far above average drifted nonchalantly through high school and early college. He wasn't going to let his education interfere with life! But toward the end of his college he settled down to serious studies; then he tried for a coveted scholarship which carried not only a large sum for advanced study but a coveted position in a reputable firm. Wanting just that position, in just that firm, he gave the effort all he had. In competition with many others he came first, with only one rival very close behind. The award went to the other lad—who came second. The manager explained kindly: "This position is one of great responsibility, and calls for steadiness and reliability. We find by studying your record that, though you have done well in this particular effort, your previous work has not been consistent. Better luck next time!" Those last words were a mere convention. The chagrined candidate stumbled out, knowing full well that luck had nothing to do with it. It was discipline that tipped the scale.
The Disciplined Lifeby Richard Taylor
Copyright © 1962, Beacon Hill Press