Discipline is the Price of Freedom


freedom through disciplineWhat does it mean to be free? You might have to answer this question first: what do you want to be free to do? I came across this powerful text from Elton Trueblood who speaks of the paradox of freedom through discipline. He clearly expresses the idea that we are only free to do the things we discipline ourselves to do. I added emphasis to a few parts that stood out to me.

In the conduct of one's own life it is soon obvious, as many have learned the hard way, that empty freedom is a snare and a delusion. In following what comes naturally or easily, life simply ends in confusion, and in consequent disaster Without the discipline of time, we spoil the next day the night before, and without the discipline of prayer, we are likely to end by having practically no experience of the divine-human encounter. However compassionate we may be with others, we dare not be soft or indulgent with ourselves. Excellence comes at a price, and one of the major price is that of inner control.

"We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom, to the effect that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding. The one who would like to be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his [or her] body by regular exercise and by abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or track... With one concerted voice the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life with the dictum: Discipline is the price of freedom."

-From The New Man for Our Time by Elton Trueblood

What do you think? Is freedom without discipline a delusion? Are we most free when we are bound?

Brent ColbyComment