An Encouraging Word — Get a grip on yourself

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

Discipline yourself in all your conduct. Tobit 4:14

Do you want to get rich quickly? Short of winning the lottery, I am convinced that the fastest and easiest way to get rich is to create and promote a “miracle” product that will promise to remove the need for any personal discipline. Sadly, if it were to sound convincing enough, I might fall for it myself!

This new “miracle” product doesn’t actually have to work, but the promise just has to be convincing enough to make us choose to continue to eat whatever we want, as much as we want, whenever we want, while believing that no price actually needs to be paid.

It’s all part of our cultural bias toward looking at personal discipline as a disease for which we need a cure. Our lack of inner strength of will to choose what is good, true and right for ourselves is not new and people of every age have experienced this same weakness. Two things come together to exacerbate this weakness in today’s culture. We have an explosion of false promises on one hand and a decline in the practice of the spiritual exercises that strengthen our wills on the other.

I suspect that spiritual discipline has been neglected because it has been confused with its fanatic distortions — sadomasochism — the enjoyment of pain for its own sake. All discipline, including spiritual discipline, is a means to something greater, not an end in itself!

In Christian spirituality, discipline is performed, not for its own sake, but for the purpose of acquiring the habits of virtue. St. Jerome, who was prone to austerity, made a good point when he said, “Be on your guard when you begin to mortify your body by abstinence and fasting, lest you imagine yourself to be perfect and a saint; for perfection does not consist in this virtue. It is only a help; a disposition; a means though a fitting one, for the attainment of true perfection.”

People who succeed in life are first of all masters of themselves. Winners embrace discipline, while losers see it as punishment and avoid it.

To have good health, reasonable happiness and peace of mind, we must first discipline ourselves. Many believe that commitment to a goal is enough, but commitment to a goal is useless without the discipline to go with it. Personal discipline, when it becomes a way of life, will enable us to do some incredible things.

With all the seductions out there, discipline becomes even more important. It’s this simple. Choose ease and you will slowly die. Choose the difficult and you can have even more life. Give into your appetites and you will slowly turn into a disease-ridden couch potato. Eat selectively and push your body to its limits with regular exercise and you can enjoy a trim, vigorous, disease-free body to serve you for years to come. Indeed, as the old exercise motto goes, “No pain, no gain!”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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