Do You Discipline Yourself in Little Things?
A MIDDLE-AGED Christian minister was standing on a busy street corner of Brooklyn’s fashionable Heights section, handing out invitations to hear a Bible lecture entitled “Do You Value Discipline?” As he offered the invitations with a friendly smile most persons readily accepted them, but one smartly dressed matron refused, emphatically stating to her lady companion, “I don’t want discipline!”
By her response that woman showed she was laboring under a popular misconception regarding discipline, namely, that discipline is synonymous with chastisement, punishment or scourging. True, sometimes it is used in this sense, as when the wise King Solomon counseled parents: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die.” “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.”—Prov. 23:13; 22:15.
However, discipline also has other meanings. The word itself comes from the Latin disciplina, literally, “teaching, instruction.” So Webster defines discipline also as “training or experience that corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects, especially the mental faculties or moral character.” Thus one writer observed that one “needs the discipline of hard work and early rising”; and another spoke of the person who “will submit willingly to severe discipline to acquire some coveted knowledge or skill.”
True, discipline of itself is not pleasant or easy; it is not following the lines of least resistance. The Bible makes that point clear when it states: “No discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—Heb. 12:11.
Yes, to accept discipline, whether in the form of training or punishment, is the course of wisdom. But it is even greater wisdom to discipline oneself, to heed the counsel: “Take hold on discipline; do not let go. Safeguard it, for it itself is your life.” And the place to begin is in little things.—Prov. 4:13.
Why? Because if we discipline ourselves in little things it will be easier to do this in big things, things upon which our very lives may depend. For example, if you discipline yourself in line with Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:28 by not keeping on looking upon a woman with passionate thoughts, it is not likely that you will become guilty of serious immorality. If you heed the implied counsel at 2 Corinthians 10:5, bringing every thought into captivity to godly principles, there is little danger that you will grossly transgress in word or action. Here also the principle applies, “The person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.”—Luke 16:10.
Ever so much can be said in favor of self-discipline in little things. In view of the foregoing it certainly makes for good relations with our Maker. Are we inclined to be careless about fulfilling our vows to God? Then we should discipline ourselves, for we are told: “The true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should prove to be few.” The apostle Paul said he disciplined himself lest he should be disapproved by God.—Eccl. 5:2; 1 Cor. 9:27.
Again, self-discipline makes for good relations with ourselves. With ourselves? Yes, in that it makes for self-respect. There are joy and satisfaction in the realization that we have disciplined ourselves and made ourselves do something we knew we should do instead of putting it off. Even such a little thing as getting up when the alarm clock rings instead of lazily lying in bed until the very last minute shows discipline. In fact, there is a sense of well-being or strength that comes with each act of disciplining oneself in little things rather than yielding to one’s inclinations and indulging oneself.
Further, self-discipline in little things is the course of wisdom in that it makes for good relations with others. Take the comparatively little thing of our manner of speech. Undisciplined speech is either too loud or too soft, too harsh or too sweet, or it may be downright slovenly, all of which creates a poor impression upon others, if not also offending them. You can even offend by not saying a word, by the way you listen or fail to listen when others speak to you. It takes self-discipline to give respectful attention, to stop reading or whatever else you are doing, to give the speaker your ear, but it pays. The same must be said about disciplining yourself at the table; not taking too much food at a time, not eating too fast or too noisily, all requires self-discipline.
How important self-discipline in little things is as regards one’s health! The cigarette is a little thing, but the more fully you discipline yourself, refraining from using it, the less likely you will be to acquire lung cancer, not to say anything of a host of other ills. What about posture? Good posture requires self-discipline, but it certainly pays off in improved health, not only in physical health but also in confidence and poise; yes, and even in the impression you make upon others!
Nor to be overlooked is the value of self-discipline in the matter of recreation. It takes self-discipline to turn off the television set when it is time to go to bed or when worthless programs come on the screen, but does it not save a lot of time and energy? It likewise takes self-discipline to leave a social gathering at a reasonable hour so as to get a good night’s rest, so necessary to do justice to the next day’s duties. Also, sports are beneficial for a little, the Bible tells us—but only if we discipline ourselves to pursue them in moderation.—1 Tim. 4:8.
No question about it, it is the course of wisdom to discipline ourselves in little things! Not without good reason does the Bible tell us to ‘take hold of discipline and not let go of it’!