A Matter Of Discipline: New Patterns For Old

matterI’ve had several discussions today about why discipline is important. Why it’s a matter we should all be concerned about. Although I know it can be hard to see that it does concern all of us when there are disagreements about what the word means in the first place.

The dictionary definition of discipline is a) the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience, and b) a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education. I actually find that fascinating. Discipline ties into punishment and also into knowledge. Does it matter that these seem to be rather opposed to each other? Do I learn better when I am punished for getting it wrong? Or not understanding? How did these two ideas become linked together in this way? When I was growing up discipline was certainly about punishment for doing wrong. The schools I attended had all sorts of not always logical rules about my behaviour. Then in University I studied a discipline in order to get my degree. I often wonder if that was self-punishment of a kind.

When I finished my degree I realise the paper actually didn’t matter to me. I had learned more about myself than perhaps I had of the subject. Even though it was one I loved. Recalling this today I realised that I have spent quite a chunk of the last few years learning to be disciplined. Not because I wished to learn a subject. Or because I wanted to punish myself. Because I want to have new patterns and way of being. I want to approach my life in a different way. That is the heart of the matter. Applying discipline to my life means that I honour my authentic self. I work more professionally. I am mindful of the energy exchanges that I enter into. And I make sure that I can balance my work and leisure in a positive way. For me self-discipline has been a positive accomplishment.

Does discipline matter in the wider world?

I feel it is important to work out as human beings what we really mean by discipline. Punishment often creates the wrong flow of energy. Bitterness, resentment, physical hurt and emotional damage matter. These are all possible when punishment is the focal point of learning to live by an agreed set of rules. I am disappointed that we crown upward of fourteen hundred teenagers together in a school and try to impose order on all of that energetic chaos by punishments. Or that the rules of communities and nations cut across the rights of other people to live peaceably. To me it’s a matter of teaching our children and young people the benefit of self-discipline. Not by harsh or cruel acts. But I feel I have to set the example by being able to show self-discipline first. Otherwise why would any child do the same?

There it is. Another heart of the matter. Unless I can apply some rules to myself how can I really expect anyone else to apply rules to themselves. When I worked in a drug and alcohol support unit I saw parents bemused by the consequences of their children’s drug misuse. What the parents failed to notice was their own alcohol misuse. When they asked all the why questions about drug misuse I found it so hard to explain the similarities to them. Discipline starts from within. Setting an example of positive and loving behaviour towards myself. I have had to learn to control my impulses. Especially when I want to act in ways that compromise my wellbeing. What I choose to do matters. So I choose wisely. And try to help others make wise choices too.

I’m sure the debate about rules and discipline will go on for some time to come. I know there are patterns that desperately need to be changed. If only we could all understand that future generations are affected by how we apply self-didipline right now. It’s long past time to let discipline become a matter of study and education rather than one concerning punishment. Is it time for you to be more self-disciplined ins your life?

Day 937 of my blogging challenge