Self-discipline

About six months ago, when I found myself living alone for the first time in my life, I went around my apartment posting notecards with scripture on them in conspicuous places — above the kitchen sink, next to the bathroom mirror, on the inside of the closet door. The idea was that when I saw a card in one of these highly traveled locations, I’d have to stop and at least read it (and hopefully reflect on it) before moving on with the next thing I was going to do. It was an attempt to get myself to slow down, to reflect more, to seek God in the mundane things I did every day.

The verse I put above the bathroom mirror is from 2 Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” When I first put this up, I was totally on board with the not being timid, the having power, and the having love; these things all seemed worth seeking out in my own spirit. But I felt a little weird about the self-discipline part. It struck me as somehow “too Christian” — language that connotes long dresses and turtlenecks and bad haircuts and no fun. I guess subconsciously I was thinking, “Oh, self-discipline, that’s not something I need to work on, I have that, it’s no big deal.”

But actually, it’s a huge deal. It’s what underlies all of these “things” I’m writing about; the lack of it is what prevents me from succeeding in having any of them accurately describe me. Sure, I exert a fair degree of self-discipline in my daily life — I have to; we all do. I get up every day, I feed and bathe myself, I go to work, I take care of my cat. Recently, I’ve been taking devotional time in the mornings, and I’ve been writing every evening. My self-discipline in terms of actions is fairly on track, and at worst, it’s wrangleable — I can force myself to do these things, physically, even when I really don’t want to.

It’s self-discipline of the mind that I struggle with. The key to getting anywhere with the list of things I’m striving for is exerting self-discipline over my thoughts, my intentions, my inner monologue, which is far harder to quantify or prove — and yet, it can make so much of a difference in everything if it’s truly happening.

——
“I make all of the right noises, but they never make it to you.” – Page France

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