Self-Discipline for Distinctions

Thought of the day:

Why is self-control a fruit of the Spirit (as Paul says in Galatians 5:22-24)? And why, more broadly, do we practice self-discipline? (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

God’s creative work is a work of creating distinctions (separating the light from the darkness, the sky from the sea, the land from the water, living things from the dirt, woman from man, etc.). The devil’s work is that of blurring those distinctions.

Self-control and self-discipline are the art of maintaining distinctions in the self.

If I maintain a precise schedule, it means I set aside a specific time to do Activity A and keep it separate from another time that is set aside for Activity B.

But if I try to multitask, then I find that I am blurring distinctions, not only outwardly but in my thoughts. If I try to plan out ideas for a personal project while I’m in a boring work meeting, I am blurring the mental distinction between my project and my work. Not only does this mean that the mental boundaries between those two activities get fuzzier, but I find it also means that I increase the habit of having fuzzier thoughts overall.

And if I don’t follow a strict schedule for planning / separating different activities in my day, on the one hand it gives me greater flexibility to do what is needful in the moment, but on the other hand it means my thoughts about what I am doing that day are rather fuzzy.

“Holy” means “set apart”. Holiness is being made distinct.

I find that the simple practices of self-discipline, such as working on only a single thing at a time rather than multitasking, and setting aside specific times for specific activities in advance and actually doing them at those times even when I don’t want to in the moment, carry over into the clarity of my thoughts throughout the day.

So I find that one aspect of self-control as holiness is making thoughts holy from things they are not meant to be focused on at a given time. And that holiness supports the work that God created the mind to function in, not fuzzily but clearly, despite the distractions and destructive blurrings of the devil. (And boy does our present day bombard us with many assaults on clear thinking!)

(And I should clarify that I don’t think this is the only or even necessarily the primary sense of why self-control or self-discipline is important, but I noticed this dimension as a new facet that I’d not considered much before.)