“Self-discipline does not come from self, it must be taught to self, and then self-performed”.
I mentioned that to a single parent I was having a conversation with about her son whom she was very frustrated with. She was thinking of not letting him finish his senior year of high school at the Christian school he has been attending for the previous 6 years. His grades had steadily plummeted, and his GPA was now at 1.75. Yet, he had just taken his college entrance ACT test for the first time, and scored a 28, which is quite high. I can understand her frustration due to the disparity in those two indicators.
“Self-discipline is the boy’s main problem” I told her, not the school. She agreed and commented that his low grades are a result of frequently not turning in homework, (even if he had it completed) forgetting assignments, not preparing for tests, etc. However, if you create a controlled and monitored environment, such as taking the ACT test, his intellectual abilities shine impressively; further proving a lack of self-discipline. His Mom had never taught him how to be self-disciplined, and neither has any teachers at his school. Self-discipline has to be taught, and I do not mean taught to have it, because it is not something you have, but is something you do. It is a habit you have to learn with practice. God knew self-discipline was something very difficult for us, but very much needed. Not that He created a flaw in us, but that similarly to talking, we have to learn it and learn it well, which takes practice, to be most effective for Him.
There is great news for us though: God helps us to be self-disciplined, so much so, that it is one of the three “special powers” we have as Christians, which are found in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. The third “special power”, or probably it is better to say “mental disposition” there that God has given us is a “sound mind”, which is actually one word in the original Greek, meaning “to be self-controlled and disciplined”. We have to put forth the effort, and do the hard work and practice to be self-disciplined. And, since God wants us to be self-disciplined, if we do our part, we will be.
During my conversation with that single Mom about her son, I asked her to come up with household rules and duties to teach her son to be self-disciplined. Those include completing homework prior to watching television, playing video games, or anything else. Place completed homework in his backpack, and put it by the door so he would not forget it. Also, he should be rewarded for deeds involving self-discipline, and reprimanded (disciplined, such as taking away some privileges) for lack of self-discipline. The idea is to train correctly to produce good habits. Schools should similarly come up with methods to teach students self-discipline. Remember, kids are to be trained, and self-discipline is something needing to be trained.
One other thing I mentioned to the single Mom was that when you look at that passage in 2 Timothy, it says that God gives us the spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. That does refer to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us when we are a true Christian. The Holy Spirit will help us to have those three. So if we Christians do not have a mental disposition of power, love, and self-discipline, then what spirit do we have? That is a very serious question! Yes, I asked that single Mom to sit down with her son, and tenderly explain that to him, and to ensure he really was saved.
Teach students to be self-disciplined, and to learn it as a habit.
“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson