For people who grew up in the 60s, the “disciplined” life almost sounds like Communism. The idea is that life was better if you could just do as you pleased—y’know: easy and carefree. Artwork like the drip art of Jackson Pollack or the minimalist music of artists such as Philip Glass, as well as playwrights, filmmakers, and novelists, were recognized for their avant garde breakthrough understanding of true freedom. Jackson Pollack died in a car accident under the influence. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died within a month of each other.
For people born in the 70s, the disciplined life sounds like a manipulation from the establishment and organized religion, just trying to make people conform to the chains of their institutions.
By the time we got to the 80s, because of the past 20 years, there was a growing feeling of futility, loneliness, and despair. Families were collapsing; violence was on the increase, and stress was growing, as was divorce. Young people were feeling a strong loss of connectedness, and to cope with it, they became self-serving, a “breakthrough” understanding of “true freedom”.
With the 90s came more rudeness and disrespect, the collapse of commitment, school shootings, depression, and the dumbing down of America. Self-serving personalities had evolved into “Self” as one’s sole authority. “I do what I want. If it’s truth for me, then it’s true.” Kurt Cobain shot himself. Dr. Jack Kevorkian tried to mainstream euthanasia.
The new millennium was the decade of nihilism. Less parental control. Individual belief systems, no moral foundations, and the reign of tolerance: “Everybody’s right (except the people I disagree with).”
The “freedom” experiments of the decades had proved to be a flop. In the 60s there were 2 sexually transmitted diseases; now there are over 25. Depression and suicide rates increased, as did murder, abortions, and school shootings.
It’s not that freedom is a lousy idea, only that it was being misdefined. Freedom was thought to be “I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want, and however I want.” Now people are coming to understand that without discipline and prudence, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Instead of freedom, there was chaos and misery. The Bible says there is value in acquiring a disciplined and prudent life. The sports world gives us good illustrations: imagine football with no referees and no rules? When the players realized anything goes, the game would quickly deteriorate into mayhem. Take the rules away from math—any answer is considered right. The result isn’t freedom, but meaningless and absurdity. Maybe drips on a canvas make respectable art, but living life without discipline and prudence doesn’t make art, as we have learned, but anarchy.
We have learned that “Anything Goes” isn’t freedom. Freedom, instead, is the opportunity to chose what or whom you wish to serve. We will always have a master of some kind. Freedom is choosing the right master. The drug addict must trade his slavery to drugs for his slavery to self-control (discipline). So also the compulsive gambler, the alcoholic, the person with the explosive temper, and the workaholic.
Just as in baseball, where freedom to enjoy the game stems from conformity to the rules of the game, so in life the Bible teaches us that conformity to the rule of love (genuine love) is the root of all freedom.
Think about how most of us approach life. We make our choices and get an education. We find a job, and start families. We find a church. When you stop to think about it, most of the time, aside from a few specific events, we take life as it happens. Things happen to us, and we deal with them and respond to them in ways we feel are appropriate. We settle in to the things we value: a good job, stable families, our nice homes, fun vacations, and a good church.
We just want to do what comes naturally to us, thinking that everything will work out. But it’s not true, because we’re naturally self-centered. We tend to orient everything toward pleasing ourselves and towards our own comfort, and it doesn’t work out. We all know that.
Instead, how often do we take life as it happens instead of making it happen? If we are going to attain wisdom, discipline, insight, discernment, and prudence, beyond what is natural for us, it’s going to take quite a bit of work, wisdom, discipline, insight, discernment, and prudence, don’t you think? The trick is to break away from our own personalities and patterns, our habits and preferences, and attain to something else. We will always have a mast of some kind.
Discipline is the ability to do either what you ought or what you have determined to do. While the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to life is paved with discipline—the follow through in righteousness that brings success. Why can most people not follow through with home exercise equipment, teach themselves a musical instrument, or follow though on a diet? It’s because they are short on discipline. Discipline is a combination of self-control, follow-through, and perseverance. Without discipline, we get nowhere in life. With it we have a chance of finding freedom.