So you still haven’t gotten around to improving your diet, eh? Still haven’t gotten yourself to the gym? Still haven’t been “digging into the Word” like you know you should?
It’s because you suck at self-discipline.
But don’t feel bad. We all suck at it. It’s because we approach it the wrong way.
I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read this recent “tweet storm” by Alexander J.A. Cortez on self-control. I give my take on it below as it relates to Christians.
Self-control or discipline is one of the fundamental spiritual virtues of mature Christians. There are two aspects of discipline:
- The “good” things you practice
- The “not good” things you avoid
Most people focus only on the second part. Christians, specifically, tend to focus on avoiding sin (or self-defined “sins”). Christian men think “I need to stop looking at porn… I need to quit masturbating… I need to quit lusting after women… I need to stop losing my temper with my wife… I need to quit being afraid of my wife…”
But what you avoid is only part of discipline. And it’s not the foundational part. How you want to live determines what you need to avoid.
To have self-control, Christians must be aware of the following four things (adapted from Cortez’s original list):
- Recognize what the blessed life looks like
- Recognize what robs you of that blessed life (i.e. sin, worldliness, immaturity)
- Be grateful for the blessings you have now
- Reframe self control as living the blessed life every day, as opposed to focusing on “what’s not allowed”
Once you can accept these paradigms, the application of self control becomes simple (not necessarily easy, but more effective). There are four questions that lead to results:
- What do I need to do or change to make my life more blessed? (i.e. behaviors, environment, learning)
- What do I need to stop doing? And why should I stop doing them? (the “why” question leads you to confront your underlying beliefs, many of which are incorrect)
- What am I sacrificing for? What’s the prize at the end of the struggle? (prompts you to address your identity and motivations)
- What will my life look like after I do these things? (prompts you to clarify your mission and vision for your life)
It does you no good to simply say “I need to be more disciplined.” There’s no why behind that. There’s only a what. Your motivation will be depleted before you make any progress.
Don’t tell yourself you need to “work out” or “eat better” or “read the Bible more.”
Those aren’t reasons. They’re just applaudable sound bites that we substitute for thinking and action.
You need a reason why.
You can go to the gym to “get in shape” …or you can go to the gym because you want to become a beast in the bedroom.
You can eat healthy foods because you “need to” …or because you want your sperm to be healthy so you can produce strong, beautiful offspring.
You can read the Bible because you’ve been “falling behind” in your spiritual life …or because you want to become a mighty prince in God’s eternal Kingdom.
Whatever works for you. Find your reason why and this will compel to do all those those things you “need” to do but haven’t gotten around to doing.