Editors Note: This is guest post from Ben Pratt good friend and a devoted father of four and adoring husband of the most beautiful woman in the world.
I love my family. Every day since my wife and I got married, I have told her that I love her. Every day since my children were born, I have told them the same. It’s a track record I want to keep up for as long as I can.
I discipline my family. My wife and I talk about the need for discipline, the need for direction and teaching, and for boundaries. I work with my children to help them understand not only the what of discipline, but also the why.
Here’s the kicker that you may not have thought about:
The person who I need to love and discipline the most, is me.
Why do I say this?
What do I mean by Love and Discipline?
Love and discipline make a heady mix, and they’re two things we don’t often think of mixing. The reality is that if we don’t, then we aren’t showing either love OR discipline.
To discipline someone is to teach them the truth in a way that they can follow. It’s not about spanking or smacking your child. Sure, that is one way that discipline can be expressed (whether it should be is a whole different discussion), but that’s not what discipline means.
To love someone is to deliberately choose to act in their best interests, despite the cost to yourself. It’s not about an emotional state. Sure, we can feel love as a strong emotion, but that’s not what it means to love someone.
Both discipline and love are doing words, not describing words, when it comes to your family (they are verbs, not nouns).
Both are seen in action.
But love without discipline is not love. It is, at best, permissiveness. At worst, neglect.
And discipline without love is not discipline. It is, at best legalism. At worst, abuse.
So as a man, as a husband, as a father, I need to show my family love in discipline, and discipline in love.
This begins with how I treat myself.
Self-Love and Self-Discipline
If loving someone is to act in their best interests despite the cost to yourself, then to love yourself is to honestly assess yourself. Not being self-righteous and thinking more of yourself than is true. Not being self-deprecating and thinking less of yourself than is true. To love yourself you need to accept your strengths, AND your weaknesses, to see as much of the truth about yourself as you can.
If discipline is to teach someone the truth in a way that they can follow, then to discipline yourself is to take that honest assessment of yourself and to work out a way forward to improve yourself. Not to set impossible goals so that you get discouraged. Not to set easily attainable goals so that you don’t really change and grow. To discipline yourself you need to challenge your weaknesses, AND build your strengths, to be the man you were always meant to be.
How does this help my family?
As I seek to love myself and discipline myself, I become a better husband and father for two main reasons.
I can only give to them out of the overflow of my own life.
Think of your life as an empty cup: positive things fill it up, negative things empty it. I need a certain amount of positive things so that I can be healthy (emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.) and out of the overflow of those positive things, I can give to my family.
When I know myself better I can grow in relationship with them and know them better.
You cannot love someone OR discipline someone in a healthy way without knowing them. Simple but true. When you are honest with yourself and know yourself well, you can share more of yourself with the people you love, which helps you to grow in relationship with them. This helps them to be honest with you and share more of themselves with you.
It is therefore ONLY out of my self-love and self-discipline that I can offer them AND myself both discipline AND love that is in line with the greatest good that any man can aspire to.
So how are you going with your love and discipline?
It’s only out of knowing yourself, and caring for yourself that you can know and care for others. So, this week sit down with a piece of paper and work through your strengths and weaknesses honestly, and without either self-righteousness or self-deprecation.
When you’ve done this, work out a plan for self-discipline. Step by step towards a goal, mark out those steps, and do so in an honest way so that the goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).
Yours for love and discipline,
Ben is a father of four and a devoted husband who hails from Armidale in rural NSW. He is currently studying ministry and is a keen advocate for men’s issues at a local, national, and international level.