“Discipline” is not a bad word!

What a great disservice is done us by those who enshrine certain ambiguities into our language.  Take for example the word “bad,” which has actually evolved to imply the meaning “good, excellent” in informal American English; the word literally means its opposite, depending on the context in which it’s used.  There are similar problems with the definitions of the term “discipline,” although the issues of context are much more subtle and insidious.  In the case of the concept of “discipline,” perhaps our early psychological association of the word with punishment might serve to prevent many from desiring to attain the higher degrees of self-control and well-ordered behavior.

It seems that as limits have become synonymous with suffering, tendencies toward excess are mistakenly deemed as those which are most pleasurable.  And strangely enough, chasing those pleasures ultimately leads to the experience of one’s requiring disciplining by external forces.  No doubt, this is discipline in its most unwelcome sense.

 

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When business philosopher Jim Rohn stated,”discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment,” he wasn’t talking about getting your butt whipped because you didn’t know how to act.  Instead, his reference was to self-application of diligence and necessary restraint as one attunes oneself toward a certain end.  This is constructive discipline — the type which fosters growth.

Apparently, the more brutal sense of the term discipline is derived from the Old French descepline, which referred directly to punishment and suffering.  When the meaning of that similar sounding term was melded with the Latin disciplina, which meant “teaching and/or learning,” the English language gained a term that suggests two mutually-exclusive outcomes.  If an individual requires discipline (i.e., punishment) to be administered by others, clearly this is a form of enslavement.  However, the wise and disciplined individual places appropriate limits upon one’s own actions and/or behaviors; this becomes the surest path to success — and ultimately, to freedom.

Might I suggest a more practical definition than those found in the dictionaries:

Discipline: The ability of an individual to both discern the set of laws that governs any particular moment and to operate within the boundaries thereof.

 

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