Monday, October 3, 2022
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FOWLER: On the dark side of discipline

“Through discipline comes freedom.” – Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

Self-discipline is a wonderful thing. In fact, self-discipline is a principle ingredient in almost any great thing we accomplish in life.

Apparently smart people have known this for some time. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was writing about self-discipline 300-plus years before Jesus was born.

And the apostle Paul had this to say about discipline: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Self-discipline can also be a very difficult thing to achieve. I believe that everyone struggles with self-discipline in some area of their lives.

I also believe that most everyone have an area of their life where they have great self-discipline. There are so many areas of life that require self-discipline but plenty of those areas are not observable by most people in our lives.

Think about some of these areas of life that need self-discipline – faith, finances, fitness, mental and work. Gosh – look at the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5:22 – love, joy, peace, patience (also known as long-suffering!), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, kindness and self-control.

As Jill and I work to teach our kids to clean up around the house that patience one is always on my mind. The Amplified translation of the Bible states that patience is not the ability to wait but how we act while we wait. If that includes what I’m thinking while I wait, I am in big trouble.

My point is that none of us are perfect at discipline and our shortcomings are a gift from God. If you do not have any area of your life where you struggle with self-discipline, it would be very difficult to not fall into pride.

As much as I hate falling off the wagon and binge-eating on sweets (one of my many soft spots), it helps me give others grace when they fail in areas that I might be a little better at.

That is what Raynor is talking about in the epilogue of his great book, “Redeeming Your Time,” when he talks about “the dark side of discipline.”

Discipline can become an idol and a source of pride. As we get better at the discipline of redeeming our time, it can become more difficult to give grace to those who are not as disciplined as we are.

Raynor gives us two signs that might indicate our discipline has become an idol.

Two Signs Discipline has Become an Idol

1) We are unable to give grace to people who are less disciplined than we are. This is when it is really helpful to look back at the long list of disciplines we could/should all have and notice some of your weak spots. We all have them, and God gives us grace when we fall short in those areas.

That kind of self-analysis always helps me find a little more grace for others. We must remember that every area of discipline in our life (even those that required a ton of work on our part) is a gift from God (James 1:17). We are all works in progress and we all need grace.

2) We are unable to extend grace to ourselves. This one is tough for me. I love becoming more disciplined. I love chasing big goals and reaching them. It is a clear sign that those disciplines and those goals have become an idol when not accomplishing them crushes my spirit.

In times when extending grace to ourselves becomes incredibly difficult, we must remember that the gospel frees us from the need to be disciplined or productive.

The amazing grace of God has us covered. We pursue discipline and big goals to bring glory to God but He loves us regardless.

Just like the father in the story of the prodigal son, our heavenly father is always running toward us, regardless of our failures, to embrace us and welcome us into our heavenly homes.

We love helping leaders build great businesses. If you’d like to learn more, check out our free resources at or give us a call at (229) 244-1559. We’d love to help you in any way we can.

Curt Fowler is president of Fowler & Company and director at Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey. He is dedicated to helping leaders build great organizations and better lives for themselves and the people they lead.

Curt and the team at FHRS help leaders build great companies through Virtual CFO, strategy, tax and accounting services.

Curt is a syndicated business writer, keynote speaker and business advisor. He has an MBA in strategy and entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School, is a CPA and is a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and five children.

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