Self-Control vs. Self-Discipline

We discussed self-control in the previous post. This chapter will discuss self-discipline. Are self-control and self-discipline distinct concepts? Yes, the answer is yes. They are related, but they are not the same thing.

As previously stated, self-control entails self-mastery and objectivity. It is the ability to keep our passions in check and control our otherwise uncontrollable cravings. Self-discipline, however, refers to the ability to maintain consistent self-control. Self-discipline, as defined by authors Lysa Terkeurst and Shaunti Feldhahn, entails “systematically building the habits that will make walking away even easier”—walking away, that is, fleeing from temptations and compromising situations, as we have seen Joseph the Dreamer do.

Self-control is like a muscle that we strengthen by exercising. This body we’ve built is self-disciplined and strong inside and out. It is the result of self-control, which allows us to be strong in every aspect and moment of our lives.

Biblical Self-Control

The word “discipline” appears for the first time in the Bible in the Book of Proverbs. “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” Proverbs 13:24 says, while Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; even if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” Finally, Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will bring delight to your soul.”

One thing we can see in these verses is that the word discipline is used in the context of parenting. Many Christians interpret these verses to mean that discipline consists of spanking. Spanking, on the other hand, is a much later concept that arose in modern times with the introduction of corporal punishment. Spanking or corporal punishment as a form of discipline was not yet mentioned in the book of Proverbs; it was not yet a part of the ancient biblical worldview. Thus, the discipline mentioned in the book of Proverbs has more to do with providing instruction, correction, reproof, training, and warning. This is why Paul says the Bible is profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Discipline entails being corrected, trained, and instructed on proper thought, perspective, and way of life.


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