By: Emily Lehner
I think, as Christians, we tend to misinterpret the meaning of discipline. I am not saying that we are too disciplined. In fact, we probably are not disciplined enough. I think, however, we are also mixing up discipline with perfectionism. We believe that eventually discipline leads to perfectionism.
The difference between discipline and perfectionism is the matter of whose ability and power we are relying on to complete the task. Perfectionism yields the idea that I am able to complete a task with no flaws. As humans, we are drawn to this concept. We are drawn to the thought of going through a day without messes, hurt feelings, or failure. At least, I know I am. I cling tightly to the possibility of having a perfect day — so tightly that I am hard on myself when it doesn’t work out that way.
So, what is the difference between perfectionism and discipline? Perfectionism is strictly to give yourself pleasure, while discipline is an act of worship. Discipline acknowledges that there is room for mistakes, but makes it ritual to turn to God in the midst of them. As humans, it is not always first instinct to return back to God when times are hard, but discipline has a teaching element that shows us how fruitful our lives can be — in good times and poor times — when we make it habit to turn to Christ.
Aiming for perfection only leads to disappointment. Perfectionism leaves no room for mistakes and runs farther from God toward shame and disappointment when failure happens.
Discipline acknowledges Christ as the only true perfect being. It realizes that we are fallen with sin, but draws us through self-control back to Christ.
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 says:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Discipline has a purpose and place in our lives. That purpose is to draw us closer to Christ. However, we must acknowledge that salvation is strictly an act of grace. We cannot do it on our own. I encourage you to attempt to move away from the boundaries of perfection. Realize that mistakes happen, and when they do, we have the opportunity to discipline ourselves and turn to God, or be down on ourselves and wallow in self-pity. What choice will you make?
Emily Lehner is a writer for the Alumni Center, and is a Sophomore Writing major. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at www.emilylehner.wordpress.com. Her blog includes personal trials, triumphs, and devotion style writing.