Self-Discipline Is At Heart Of Spiritual Development And A Key To Spiritual Gifts
By Michael H. Brown
Discipline is the key to happiness." It's an old spiritual adage, and while there are other things as important -- tied in importance, if not even more important -- we can see the truth: when we have discipline we have joy because discipline leads to many spiritual gifts.
Meditate on the life of Jesus. He was the personification of discipline. He had the discipline to fast for forty days. He had the discipline to bear others. He had the discipline to avoid sin. It was discipline that prepared Christ for His flurry of miracles and allowed Him to defeat evil; it was discipline that propelled the disciples.
That's because discipline leads to faith and self-control and when we have that we improve spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. We gain in love. We gain respect. Discipline conquers all because it is ready for anything.
"Discipline and spirituality seem like strange bedfellows," notes a Cursillo website (http://www.nycursillo.org/ultreyaed8.html). "Our spirituality is our personal relationship with Christ's Spirit. What does discipline have to do with that relationship? When you think about it, discipline is involved in maintaining and nourishing all our relationships. How much more so in a relationship with Christ's Spirit who constantly calls us to the best that is in us! Discipline is the training that corrects, molds or perfects our heart desires, our mental faculties and our character for the living of our relationship with Christ's Spirit. Its goal is to develop habits or virtues, those stable and lasting dispositions that enable us to act or behave consistently in a certain way. Discipline is to the spiritual life what training is to the athlete, or practice is to the musician or the dancer."
Does not discipline determine what we eat? Does it not determine how we react to others? Does it not determine how much time we set aside for meditation and love and prayer (as opposed to how much time we set aside for watching TV)?
Think about what discipline means: Discipline means setting aside the time to pray. It means watching over one's interior life. It means contemplation (and a dedication to reality). Discipline means self-control -- and that self-control must extend even to what we think. There is a tremendous root of happiness here and sometimes all it takes is realizing it.
To pray for discipline -- and we all can develop it -- is to pray for an even temper. It is to pray away impure thoughts. It is to pray away anxiety. In the frenzy of the modern world, this is difficult, but not if we have the discipline of taking time for prayer when that frenzy builds up.
If you get in a rhythm of that, you'll find peace enter your life. How do we start? By developing a "do it now" attitude. When something needs to be done, we should do it right away. The enemy of discipline is procrastination. So do it now -- as long as it's not something that will overtax you or cause more frenzy.
Instead of letting things build up (and haunt you), start this moment with an attitude of picking up something that needs to be picked up as soon as you approach it -- not after you've passed it a dozen times. Develop the habit of praying right away (and first thing in the morning).
It also means organization. Making a list of things we have to do organizes our minds and takes away the burden of having to remember everything, which also diminishes our anxiety. It's astonishing how peaceful our lives can become and how much we accomplish when we're organized. An organized mind operates in a maximum way, and that's something we all need to work on. A disciplined person maximizes spiritual gifts. When we don't discipline ourselves, God does it for us (in ways we don't always like).
So make a list. Tackle what you least like first. Get the basic work done -- and watch your ease develop. Watch your happiness grow. Watch how you begin to enjoy much more in life-- even the process of discipline!
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