The Mastery of Oneself by Self-Discipline

"Discipline" is derived from the root word "disciple," meaning a follower or student of a parent, teacher, or leader. Discipline implies "learning," "training," "practicing," "punishment," "result of learning," "branch of knowledge," etc. Every meaning of discipline relates to learning. Therefore, to understand discipline at a deeper level, we must study learning.


Learning is a Human Thing

Every life in this world can survive through their genes, but human beings are born with potential only, and the ability to survive for humans is through learning. Of course, one could argue that animals need to learn hunting skills to survive. Despite this, the depth, duration, and significance of the lessons beasts must learn to survive are incomparable to humans. The first reason is the time it takes for them to mature physically. Small animals, such as rabbits, reach maturity within four weeks, while large animals, such as tigers, reach maturity after one year. In contrast, humans mature after nearly two decades (only physically). Therefore, learning is an existential issue for humans.

1 - Humans attain their ability to survive through learning, unlike animals who inherit that through their genes.
2 - Humans create themselves through learning as they truly become one-of-a-kind. 

When everyone arrives in this world as an infant, they appear to know nothing and can do nothing. Goals of learning have two domains, 1 - gaining competence (related to IQ) and 2 - gaining mature character (related to EQ.) Therefore, the ultimate goal of learning is mastering oneself. That is why most people understand that self-discipline is self-control. As a matter of fact, the last virtue of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23 [NIV]


Finding self-identity is what everyone should learn in order to find their true selves.

In order to control yourself, the first quality to acquire is self-identity which means knowing who and what you are. How do you accomplish this extremely difficult task? In order to accomplish this task, we need a clear understanding of the big picture of life. That big picture is the principle of the universe. The universe runs in an orderly fashion, under a few principles. The question we need to ask is what are those principles that govern the universe. Example: The physical realm of the world is governed by cause and effect, which is every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There is another principle of Spirit that runs totally different than the physical world. That is called Grace. The meaning of Grace is “gift,” “free” and “priceless”! As you can see, this spiritual principle is totally in opposition to the principle of cause-and-effect. Isn’t it? That is the mystery of life. So many different principles run in the physical realm and spiritual realm. How can we get a clear understanding of when either of these principles should be applied to life? Restated, when do I use the physical principle of cause and effect and when do I use the Spiritual principle of Grace? That is wisdom and is exactly what I need to have in order to find out who and what I am. Let me offer a 3rd and 4th principle: Third is the Principle of Relativity, or as I call it, the Principle of Life #1. This principle is a combination of total independency and total dependency.


Universal Principles of Life

First, lives have TOTAL independency. Can anyone eat, sleep, get sick, and breathe for me? No one can, only me. This principle leads us to total loneliness, one of the biggest fears each of us faces. However, life is not that simple but is complex and multifaceted. So, there is another principle that is a totally opposite concept, yet it comes together to form a pair.

We have a TOTAL dependency upon our needs for survival. No one in this world can make their own food, clothes, or shelter. Our daily survival depends on thousands of other lives. Does anyone make their own air, water, or natural resources? We do not have the ability to provide for ourselves, and thus we depend on nature. Farmers cannot grow grain without external sources. Has any farmer made a single seed and then provided the sunshine, wind, and timely rain to make it grow? It is not possible! 

Dependency has 2 different realms: 1-Spiritual energy which is provided by the Principle of Grace (free water, air, life, natural resource, etc.). 2-Social System. I have to depend on others to provide for me, i.e. grains from farmers, clothing from tailors, shelters from contractors, and our Nation for FREEDOM and EQUALITY. (a few modern countries can offer - these two values are like two wings for a bird and society to fly) 

These are two related yet totally opposite concepts. Ironically, TOTAL INDEPENDENCY and TOTAL DEPENDENCY come as a set that must be balanced with the RELATIVITY of LIFE. 

The 4th principle is the Constitution of Humans which is the body, mind (soul), and spirit. Everyone knows we have a tangible part of life--the physical world. We also know that there is an intangible part of life--the mental world. This intangible part of the world, however, is divided by the soul and the spirit. 

“The ordinary concept of the constitution of human beings is dualistic—soul and body. According to this concept soul is the invisible inner spiritual part, while body is the visible outer corporal part. Though there is some truth to this, it is nevertheless inaccurate. Such an opinion comes from fallen man, not from God; apart from God’s revelation, no concept is dependable. That the body is man’s outward sheath is undoubtedly correct, but the Bible never confuses spirit and as though they are the same. Not only are they different in terms; their very natures differ from each other. The Word of God does not divide man into the two parts of soul and body. It treats man, rather, as tripartite—spirit, soul and body.” From Chapter 1 of “The Spiritual Man” by Watchman Nee.

“The ignorance of Christians concerning the distinction between “soul” and “spirit” is very general and is a primary cause of the lack of full growth in the spiritual life in many devoted and earnest believers. G. H. Pember points out as one cause of this ignorance the popular phraseology “soul and body,” which has caused a deficiency in the English language. He also says that although we have the nouns “spirit” and “soul”--which are too often treated as synonyms--we have no adjective from the latter. The consequence is that the omission of such an adjective has nearly concealed man’s tripartite nature in most aversions of the English Bible, where the Greek word which signifies “pertaining to the soul” is sometimes rendered “natural” and sometimes “sensual” (1 Corinthians 2:14, James 3:15, Jude 19).” From Chapter 1 of “Soul & Spirit” by Jessie Penn-Lewis.


Four Types of a Universal Relationship

With the combination of the 3rd and 4th principles, we come to the conclusion of the relationships of this world. Those relationships are:

  1. I -- It. How “I” relate to the physical part of the world.
  2. I -- You. How “I” relate to other human beings of the world.
  3. I -- God. How “I” relate to the Spiritual world. God is Spirit.
  4. I -- I. How “I” relate to myself in a reflective way. For example, when an animal looks into a mirror, it has no idea that it is seeing itself in the mirror but when a human looks in the mirror, there is immediate identification, “That is me.” 

Let’s now ask the question: Who am I? I can only answer if I combine Principles 3 & 4.  We all know we fill many roles in life--Father, brother, son, husband, employee, etc. Each one requires a decision as to which role is primary at that time and for that place.  This is how I am going to find who and what I am. This is the way to solve the problem of self-identity. 



Discipline is learning. The conventional meaning of discipline is gaining knowledge or building a habit, or to “just get a little better with productivity”. The better way to discipline is through learning the above Principles in addition to gaining knowledge. With that, you will be able to govern your life much better. True self-discipline is learning how to become the master of oneself.

Thank you for reading.