Self discipline is something I do not have. I go to bed too late. I eat all the wrong foods. I get distracted at work. I wake up to the alarm AFTER I’ve hit snooze 5 or 6 times. I fall asleep when I meditate. I don’t exercise. I forget to get my prescriptions refilled, or to take my vitamins.
Self-discipline is HARD, but it’s something Americans are obsessed with. In our minds, the ideal American is someone who is independent with the will power to get up in the morning and run on the treadmill. That ideal person can’t be too strict on herself, though. She needs to have some sort of indulgence, like a Starbucks addiction, so we know she really is just like the rest of us.
Don’t believe me? Look at all of the crap being advertised to you. “Follow this diet or else you aren’t healthy.” “Sleep 6-7 hours a day or else your heart will stop.” “Don’t eat trans fats or else your heart will stop.” “Shower 14 times a week or else boys will think you smell.”
It goes deeper than advertising, though. My personal religious upbringing said the same things. “Abstain from alcohol or else you’ll go to Hell.” “Spend 6 hours in the Word every morning or else you’ll never become closer to God.” “Abstain from sex or else you’ll go to Hell AND Jesus will kill kittens.”
There’s always an “or else.” It’s implied that if we don’t develop these self-disciplines that we will fail. This are so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we are raised as a culture with a feeling of failure every time we hit the snooze button or eat a cookie.
How is this okay?