Disciples, Apostles, and Saints!
In Lent, we like to talk about what we’re “giving up” and “taking on”. This is an articulation of a practice we’re called to for the duration of the season: self-discipline. So we show enough discipline to refrain from eating sweets, for example.
It is quite easy to see why we might prefer the phrase “giving something up” to self-discipline. So many people use “discipline” a synonym for punishment, many can’t imagine anything good coming from it. There’s even a strain of Lenten practice that marries the two, making Lenten self-discipline into a kind of personal torture.
Discipline’s bad rap costs us dearly. Because the season is about being intentional, reflective, and thoughtful. It is about restraint, and doing things we might rather not have to.
Like deny ourselves what we want. Which obviously includes sweets. But also other things that produce dopamine. Like buying stuff we don’t need and getting angry with someone online.
Self-discipline is not only measured in what is given up or taken on: rendering our self-awareness only in the form of habits, but how we treat ourselves and our neighbors. And in our willingness to show mercy and forgive.