My twin daughters (age 15) have gone without eating sweets for almost four months. In January they both made the resolution to eat healthier during 2015. They decided that one way they could do that was by cutting out desserts, candy, and any other sweet treats.
While I applaud their decision, I haven’t joined them in giving up sweets. At this point, I’m not feeling called to abandon my love of chocolate. In fact, I doubt I ever will.
I even occasionally enjoy a DQ Blizzard, especially on the one day a month that they’re on sale for $1.30, a deal that’s too good to pass up. This year, for the first time, my youngest daughter (age 9) has been the only one who’s gone with me. Although the “blizzard run” has been fun to do with just her, I’m trying hard not to feel guilty that I’m indulging in blizzards when my teenage daughters are refraining!
In spite of my good-natured teasing, my older daughters have remained strong. I’ve actually been quite proud of their commitment, not necessarily because I believe they should give up sweets. But because of the character I see developing in their lives. One big trait I see coming out of this experience is self-discipline.
Self-discipline. That’s not a word many of us use nowadays. In fact, in our culture of my-way-right-away, instant gratification, and a live-for-the-moment mentality, self-discipline is an antiquated word right up there with words like prudence and chivalry.
People buy what they want with little thought to whether they really need it, much less whether they can truly afford it. People watch whatever is on TV or whatever new movie is out regardless of the messages it sends or the morality it portrays. People jump in and out of relationships (and bed!) with others without considering the ramifications such habits have on their families and even society. People even eat whatever they want, particularly eating out, with little thought to how such food affects their bodies or pocketbooks.
Yes self-discipline is a foreign concept to many. If it’s used, it’s mostly regulated to the quarterback or track star or figure skater. It’s good and fine for athletes to have a measure of self-discipline in their training regimes. Everyone knows that a well-defined, consistent workout will help athletes get better at their sport.
But do the rest of us really need to be concerned about self-discipline?
Oxford’s online dictionary defines self-discipline this way: The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite the temptations to abandon it.
Merriam Webster’s online dictionary says self-discipline is: The correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement.
I like both of those definitions, particularly when it comes to pursuing the things we’re passionate about or the things God has called us to do. We often have to battle weaknesses, our soft will, tiredness, laziness, or the carelessness that gets in the way of accomplishing something. We often have to work really hard to battle voices that tell us we’re not good enough or that we don’t have what it takes. And we also have to strive to overcome the temptation to quit. Sometimes we have to fight that battle numerous times, perhaps even continually.
But as the second definition tells us, such battles are worth it. When we deny ourselves the easy way and persevere through the pain down the hard path, we always come out stronger on the other side. We improve ourselves.
Self-discipline is the process of denying ourselves and saying, “No, Self. I won’t let you have what you want. I’m giving you what you need instead.”
Self-discipline. Let’s reclaim the word and make it a part of everyday life. If my teen daughters can do it, anyone can.
What about you? Do you think self-discipline is becoming an antiquated word in our culture? Do you struggle to have self-discipline in any areas? How do you fight to gain control over those difficult areas?
P.S. This weekend is the Spring Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! Don’t miss out on the chance to participate!! It’s super fun and easy! Start the purple loop at Lisa Bergren’s blog and the pink loop at Robin Hatcher’s blog.
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