The Difference Between Self-Discipline & Punishment

First, let’s look at the nature of punishment…

Discipline_1Punishment is a behavior growing out of anger and it can take many, many forms:  a loud voice, a sharp tongue, a rough hand, a glaring eye, a silent look, a turned shoulder. The origin of the word “punishment” means “to take vengeance.” It is used against others and all-too-often we use it against ourselves and are left in the wake of the effects of its destructive shaming and guilt. It is designed solely to reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of certain behaviors which we do not agree with and want to keep from occurring in the future.  When the behavior has stopped, it is not because of compliance. There is no new learning.  Rather, we or the individual on the receiving end of our punishment—have simply decided at some point to no longer wish to experience further punishment. We stop engaging in these behaviors always and only as long as the threat of punishment is immediately present.



Now let us look at the nature of self-discipline…

Discipline_4Discipline, either toward another or toward ourselves, (self-discipline) is the art of making a “disciple” of one’s self.   The origin of the word, “disciple” means “to instruct, to teach, to learn.” W. J. Bennett writes, in The Book of Virtues, “One is one’s own teacher, trainer, coach and ‘disciplinarian.’ It is an odd sort of relationship, paradoxical in its own way, and many of us do not handle it very well.  There is much unhappiness and personal distress in the world because of failures to control tempers, appetites, passions, and impulses. ‘Oh, if only I had stopped myself’ is an all too familiar refrain”.  In our lives, we will continually be in the process of disciplining ourselves by effectively managing our anger, our appetites, our passions, our impulses, then disciplining (teaching) ourselves (and others) by letting ourselves (and others) to experience the natural consequences of choices, the consequences that flow freely  from the choices that are made. Self-discipline need not be harsh; it can take the form of a quiet resolve or determination that then directs our choices. It is exacting, but is rarely served by our being self-critical or self-denigrating. Self-discipline allows us to make use of whatever power and capabilities have been given us, to be all that we can in the service of our dreams.


This entry was posted on Sunday, January 12th, 2014 at 5:29 pm and is filed under Psychology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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