What’s the way to avoid such relational disasters? Discipline. It may not sound fun to us passionate types, but I suggest discipline is not a joy-killer at all. It’s a path to true freedom in living and leading.
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To be disciplined involves being both thoughtful and prudent. It is having one’s emotions, passions and impulses under control. To be disciplined is to be free. True freedom is not doing whatever we feel like in the moment, but doing what we purpose to do. Freedom is doing what is good; it is to follow and obey Jesus. Discipline, or self-control, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Christ followers.
Benefits for leaders who practice discipline:
1.Being disciplined reduces the time leaders have to spend addressing the pain and hurt created by thoughtless words or actions.
2.Having self-control allows us to walk in step with the Spirit of God, sensitive to His leading even more than we are sensitive to our own passions and able to join in His work everywhere we go. This is the most satisfying and fruitful life for a Christ follower.
Benefits for the community where the leader leads:
1.When a leader responds to difficult situations with restraint and thoughtfulness, avoiding the damage produced by thoughtless actions, the team is able to continue pursuing the mission with trust and confidence.
2.Resisting impulsive decisions grants more time and space for communication, cooperation and collaboration. This allows the leader to get helpful counsel from others and to get buy in from team members before moving forward.
Biblical inspiration and support:
In Titus 1, Paul directs Titus to appoint elders in every town and explains:
“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:7-8 ESV, emphasis mine)
The Greek word translated disciplined here is defined by the Greek Lexicon as “[pertaining] to having one’s emotions, impulses, or desires under control, self-controlled, disciplined” Paul is directing that elders, overseers – I would say leaders – be self-controlled. By adding not “quick-tempered” in the mix Paul was emphasizing that it is very important that God’s overseers, those serving as leaders of the flock, are not impulsive but are able to regularly restrain their passions in order be to holy, upright, lovers of good and hospitable to people.
The Greek word, translated “self-controlled” in Titus 1:8 is found again in our next passage:
“2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2–3 ESV, emphasis mine)
Here again Paul is training one of his delegated leaders how people should conduct themselves in Christian communities. The Greek word translated self-controlled here and in Titus 1:8 is defined by the Greek Lexicon as “[pertaining] to being in control of oneself, prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled.” The word thoughtful is helpful here. Christian leaders should not be impulsive, victim to their passions, but instead be thoughtful and self-controlled. Today we might communicate this by saying leaders should be purposeful. Every word, every action should be done not as a reaction, but as a considered response.
This may seem like a tall order, especially for those of us with more passionate personalities. Ah, but with God there is always empowerment to live as we are directed to live, grace to lead as we are commanded to lead. In Galatians 5 we read of the fruits of the Spirit – we read a description of what the Spirit Himself produces in us:
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22–24 (ESV)
The word translated self-control here is defined by the Greek Lexicon as “restraint of one’s emotions, impulses or desires…” Where we lack the ability in ourselves to be self-controlled or disciplined, the Spirit himself is able to produce what we lack. This is a mystery and a miracle that enables us to walk by the Spirit which Paul discusses in this same chapter. Here Paul reminds us that we are called to walk in freedom but this freedom is not an opportunity to indulge our every whim or feed whatever hungers we have but instead “…through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:14 ESV).
How does one receive this spiritual power of discipline and self-control? I believe when we submit ourselves first to the Lord, seeking His will, and we take a step to obey we will see this fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in and through us.
True freedom is not the ability to serve our selfish passions and desires, but it is the freedom of self-control and discipline that we might serve and love God and others.
Recently I was blessed to have a meeting with a coach. In our short time together, I shared all the ideas and passions whirring about in my mind and heart for this blog, website and such and I was ready to run out and do them all. He wisely cautioned me to limit my plan and shared the advice, “under-promise and overdeliver.” Friends, this is not what my heart wanted to hear. I love feeling passionate, it is so energizing. But I heard what he said, and saw the loving concern for me in his eyes through the zoom screen, and I took it to heart. As I’ve made decisions about how much to do and how much to commit to do, I’ve been thoughtful and often waited days to make decisions while I prayed and consulted others. The result has been avoidance of the dangerous but well-traveled ground of over-promising followed by the inevitable back-breaking work to avoid under-delivering. Restraint, thoughtfulness, and self-control have their place, even for creative-entrepreneur types.
Take some time. Consider requiring a waiting period before acting on decisions. Whether it is sleeping on the email before sending it in the morning, or fasting from making decisions for one month a year* so that you can seek the Lord for the next season – take some extra time to respond and not react.
* I have often set aside July as a decision free month. I do not decide to take on any new projects or say yes to any new opportunities or commitments in the month of July. In July I collect them, I pray over them and I ask the Lord to guide me in the next season. Important to note, I do not believe I have ever lost an opportunity because of this practice.
Daily Examen. One way to grow in discipline is to spend some time reviewing each day, praying for the Lord to guide you to recall important moments and asking a simple set of questions. I suggest the questions:
When did I feel pressured today?
When did I feel free?
Over the last year I have become convinced that God does not guide through pressure. I believe He guides through invitation. If that’s the case, where is the pressure coming from? That is a powerful question to take to the Lord in prayer.
A parting word on being disciplined:
Disciplined leaders don’t react, they respond.
“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” (Proverbs 19:2 ESV)
 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. “ἐγκρατής,” Page 274 in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. “σώφρων,” Page 987 in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. “ἐγκράτεια,”Page 273 in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Hi! I'm Jeri Howe.
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