More on Self-Discipline (and, as it happens, World Peace)

December 8, 2014 — Leave A Comment


“Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.” ~ William Hazlitt

As I mentioned in my previous post, too often our efforts at self-discipline are motivated by feelings of self-hatred and self-rejection, rather than love or self-compassion. Any discipline fueled by shame, I said, cannot produce freedom. It leads only to a soul divided, at war with itself, continually bound in a struggle that can never be won.

To continue that thought…This internal war with self is what inevitably leads to war with others as well.

Here’s how that happens:

When you judge a part of yourself from a place of hate, shame, fear, or disgust, you will find it impossible to love other people without judging them in the same way. We cannot love others beyond our capacity to love ourselves. So the one who passes judgment on his own soul cannot follow God’s command to love his neighbor and not to judge him, for judgment is all he knows within himself, and is therefore all he has to offer.

All division, all hate, all human war comes from this internal self-judgment and the divided self it produces. For if there is any part of me I refuse to love or accept, when I see that same part in you, I cannot love or accept it in you either. And in my attempt to contain or destroy it within myself, I will feel compelled to try to contain or destroy it in you. In this context, all hate is self-hate, and all prejudice is self-rejection.

(This is not to say that if we had no self-hatred, we would therefore not hate anything at all. There are things in the universe that are worthy of hate. But the human soul is not one of them.)

So it is this divided self ~ this internal war within us fueled by shame, self-judgment and self-hate ~ that drives all the evil we do against one another in the world.

And all forms of false religion perpetuate this mindset.

But the gospel is about restoration. It’s about reclaiming our lost or broken parts, renewing them through the power of love, and reintegrating them into our lives. In short, the gospel is about the work of becoming whole.

The gospel is about the work of becoming whole.

From the gospel perspective, discipline isn’t about rejection, but recovery. It’s about the restoration and sanctification of all of our rejected and disowned parts. It’s about engaging our secrets in the same way God does ~ with compassionate curiosity. I believe this is what it means to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7) ~ not the light of judgment but of cleansing, as the Scripture says, a cleansing that reclaims and restores those parts of ourselves we had previously judged as unwanted and unworthy of love. But the love of Christ makes them worthy, because He is God and by that fact alone that which He deems worthy of love is exactly that.

So healthy discipline, then, is an act of deep love toward the self. Discipline must be motivated by love for it to produce any real freedom in our lives. Such discipline does not come to our darker or more unseemly parts with hatred or disgust, but with the deepest and most humble kind of compassionate curiosity. Such a spirit of loving discipline explores the darkness within us with the gentleness of a lover, and the fierceness of a mother or a father determined to recover a child who has been lost.

It is through understanding these disowned parts of ourselves and embracing them with our love and the love of God that they become a part of us again. That which was divided becomes whole, and in the process of being restored they are transformed into something good and beautiful and true, and almost always quite unexpected. In essence, God’s original design for that part of your soul is recovered. You become more, and more wholly, the person you always dreamed and God always intended you would be.

All of this is accomplished not through judgment, but through love.

What if, instead of hiding, suppressing or denying the parts of yourself you have rejected, you chose to love them and invited God to love them with you?

Michael Warden

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