DISCIPLINE IS LOVE
The word discipline has within it the idea of creating a disciple, creating one who will follow in the ways taught by a great teacher. That requires discipline. This is the primary responsibility of all authority figures. When a person balks over following the rules, which are in themselves a form of discipline, there is a total failure and possibly sin when they hold their ground. Giving in to tantrums ( whether a child’s or an adult’s) is actually weakness. That person only learns that if a tantrum worked once it will work again. In my experience the next tantrum will be longer and louder unless I hold my ground and do not given in. That is very hard to do. Tantrums have many faces such as ignoring the directive altogether, whining, procrastinating, crying, making excuses or passing the buck. We all have ways to avoid doing what we must.
When I was a high school teacher, I had a learning disabled student who did careless work, (if he did it at all), turned it in late or it was incomplete. It was not accepted and was returned to meet the standard expected while making allowance for his disability. With repeated reminders and even time extensions, the gig was up at the end of the semester when he failed to turn in a major project. Nothing. Consequently he failed the course.
Mother was an enabler and came in demanding a grade change because after all he was learning disabled! A meeting was called by the Administration and both parents attended.
I reviewed the pattern throughout the semester and that he had not completed the final major assignment. I had made every effort to get something frm him but as he turned in nothing the grade was zero. I stated that in the real world he would not be paid for work not done.
Much to my surprise, the Dad finally spoke up and asked his son if what I had said were true. Getting an affirmative response, Dad stood up and said, “This meeting is over, I’m sorry we wasted your time.” That was a father who loved his son enough to hold him accountable.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews he reminds them of the words in Proverbs 3:11 “My son do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by Him, for whom the Lord loves he disciplines.” My young student had to pay the consequences for putting forth no effort. He repeated the course.
That verse from Proverbs teaches that if we don’t discipline ourselves someone else will. Disciple is truly and act of love. I’m not talking about cruelty or abuse but lovingly giving correction and instruction on the consequences of failing to comply with the rules; the rules of life and the rules of God. No one is exempt.
God’s commandments are not harsh but are intended to make us truly good children of God our Father. Obedience is not optional. Self control is discipline, fasting is discipline. holding back a harsh word is discipline, living within our means is discipline,as is denying ourselves any kind of over indulgence. Controlling our language and speech is also an act of love and discipline. Once we leave the supervision of our parental home, it is so easy to abandon the disciplines we were taught. Some of that is normal to test the limits and spread our wings much as a two year old does. Eventually most of us return to the value of self control as an act of love for self, our parents and especially our God.
However, the proverb goes on to say that the Lord loves whom he disciplines, therefore to endure life’s trials as a form of penance or self disciple. Yes sometimes God allows trials, difficulty, failure, rejection, loss in order to pull us up short and face our trajectory of sin or to allow us the privilege of sharing in his own suffering.
Many people seem unaware that there is great value in bearing life’s struggles with grace and gratitude when we unite them with Christ’s suffering to save souls! Our culture shuns discomfort in every form. As soon as we have a minor pain we reach for the pill bottle. Toddlers love bandaids but adults sometimes anesthetize pain with mindless activity, games, entertainment, shopping, drinking, etc. whatever makes them forget.
Pain endured with grace and dignity makes us stronger. Look to the military for example. We are meant to be spiritual warriors, becoming stronger in body and will through what life throws at us and by the penances we give ourselves. Suffering teaches us self control and compassion toward others who suffer.
Satan is the great deceiver and the father of lies. He works hard to convince us to avoid all discomfort because after all, ‘you deserve a little indulgence!’. Sorry we don’t deserve anything because we are all sinners. It is our loving Father who in his mercy showers us with good things and we take it all for granted. When suffering comes and it will, we should instead give thanks in ALL things, as St. Paul recommended. Discipline trains us to become a better version of ourself and that after all is God’s plan for us too.