Archives for posts with tag: limitations

As a child did you ever have your mouth washed out with soap because you said a “dirty” word? If so, those are not pleasant memories. Chances are pretty good that if you are reading this, you of an age when that is not going to happen again.

I have been thinking a lot about two dirty words lately. Actually there are three words but one of them is hyphenated. Are you ready? The words are “discipline” and “self-control.” They are not the kind of words that result in a soapy cleaning of the mouth but they are not among the favorite words of most folks.

Jennifer Cohen, says that “Self-discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately be happy.”* While this may be true, discipline is something that most people find easier to impose on someone else than on themselves. It is not easy to exercise restraint over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.

I tend to articulate more easily in verbal rather than written form. One of the problems, though, is that I can go on and on trying to make my point if I sense that the hearer is not getting it or if I am having a hard time finding the right expression. I can rightly be accused of often talking a lot and not saying much.

In an attempt to discipline myself I have taken on writing assignments with deadlines. It started with accepting the responsibility of writing a weekly newspaper column. The editor expected me to have it ready by Monday and it was not to exceed 500 words. The timeline pushed me to get it done and the limited space required that I carefully selected my words. In later years my job included a weekly e-newsletter with some of the same limitations. Thoughts for Thursday that you are reading right now is an effort to continue that self-discipline even though it is not a requirement of employment and there is no compensation.

My daughter and son-in-law and another family came from California to visit over the Labor Day holidays. We had a wonderful time and food was at the center of much of our enjoyment. When I weighed myself after they had gone I realized that I needed to get serious about the weight I had been gaining.

I decided to begin a routine of walking several miles daily. Three or four miles in the morning. Three or four miles in the evening. At least 4-5 times a week. In the beginning I was faithful to the commitment I made to myself. Then other things took too much of my time. One day it was raining. It was hot in the evening. Then it turned cool in the morning. There are so many excuses that make it hard to discipline myself to keep up the routine.

Of course, discipline is needed not only to make you do things you would rather not do. It also serves a preventive purpose. It is imperative to exercise self-control to avoid actions or thoughts that are harmful to us or to others. One of the definitions for discipline in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”

John MacArthur asks the question, “Why is discipline important?” Then he provides an answer. “Discipline teaches us to operate by principle rather than desire. Saying no to our impulses (even the ones that are not inherently sinful) puts us in control of our appetites rather than vice versa. It deposes our lust and permits truth, virtue, and integrity to rule our minds instead.”

One of the most famous studies of self-control is known as “the marshmallow test,” which found that children who were able to resist eating one marshmallow—in order to be rewarded with two in the future—later showed higher academic achievement than those who had wolfed the treat down immediately. The study’s results seemed to indicate that self-control is an innate ability with wide-reaching implications for our lives, but later studies have suggested that our self-control actually changes significantly over our lifetime, and can be improved with practice.**

Self-control is a desirable trait for every person and is essential if one is to live an honorable and decent life. I wish that discipline and self-control were the “one and done” kind of experience but I know it is not. It is a lifelong effort. The Apostle Paul includes self-control (self-discipline) as one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that characterizes followers of Jesus. The good news is that we are not alone in this lifelong exercise. God is present and willing to help us.

Jamie Jenkins

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2014/06/18/5-proven-methods-for-gaining-self-discipline/#4367ccb23c9f

**Psychology Today

It is what it is 3

Someone described me as a realistic optimist. I am not exactly sure what that is or if it is an accurate assessment. Nevertheless I do believe that denying reality is not helpful but one does not have to be beaten down by it.

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Honestly facing realities that are unpleasant is the first step in amending circumstances, attitudes, or actions when things are not what you want them to be or how they should be.

Once you acknowledge that something is bad or wrong, you can begin to change some things for the better. On other occasions you must come to terms with the fact that you cannot always have what you want and you make proper preparations for future outcomes.

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But you say, I believe in miracles. I do too but I recognize that they don’t always occur when and where I want them to occur.

Recently I heard Phil and Dave Alvin sing “I believe this old world is in a bad condition.” I thought to myself, “Boy, they are right!” Accepting that reality does not lead me to be fatalistic or negative. Instead it helps me realize that there is work to be done. I believe that things don’t have to stay the way they are and I must do all I can to effect positive change. I must also be prepared to accept the limitations of being human. While there are some things I can change, there are many more that are beyond my ability.

Health issues, economic disasters, broken relationships, bigotry, war, famine, prejudice and a million other things may cause concern, but I cannot fix all the problems of my own life and I am definitely unable to change the whole world.

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You say, “But God can do anything.” I believe that, but I recognize that God does not correct all our mistakes or change all of our painful experiences. I have faith in God but God is not a genie that awaits my beck and call. I do not understand why some things are the way they are- both “good” and “bad” things. But I accept things as they are and trust God to work in mysterious and miraculous ways to make things right.  Or to give me the strength to make it through.

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When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace they said to King Neduchadnezzar, “Our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not…” (Daniel 3:17-18)

John Sammis understood that everyone is subject to suffering and sorrow when he wrote:

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

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Inherent in the words of that hymn and in the words of the Hebrew Children is the understanding that things will not always be pleasant. The presence of adversity and difficulty is not an indication that God has abandoned us or that we lack faith. In fact, we can depend on God to be with us in all of the trials of life. Not always to extricate us from the problems but to be with us in them.

I am called to trust and obey. To do all that I can and leave the rest up to God. Often I simply have to accept that it is what it is and not lose faith regardless of the outcome.

Jamie Jenkins