Take On the Impossible

Hold fast to discipline, never let her go, keep your eyes on her, she is your life.

·         Proverbs 4


Mastery and Self-Discipline

When my husband Dan was a young pediatric psychologist, he was asked to do an assessment on Robert, a mentally handicapped child of seven, to determine the extent of Robert's capacities. As Dan explored what Robert could do, the boy said with great pride, "I can tie my shoes. Wanna see?" For the rest of the hour, Dan sat patiently and watched as Robert went step by step through the process he had been taught. " First you take the laces in both hands like this." His tongue stuck out to the side in rapt concentration. "Then you cross them like this..."

He took minutes for each step, his brow becoming furrowed and damp with perspiration. Then he lost the sequence. He stopped, looked up and, his eyes very round, said, "Oh, I forgot." Then, he started over. "First, you take the laces in both hands like this."

When the hour was up, Dan indicated that it was time to stop for today. He felt a pang of sadness as Robert sighed and laid the laces down. Robert said, "I can tie my shoes, ya know I can."

It became Robert's mission to show Doctor Dan his greatest feat. Finally, Dan decided that Robert's determination deserved more. He also felt that being in his own environment might help. He arrived at Robert's house one Saturday. Robert answered the door, excitement shining in his eyes.

"Today, Robert, I will watch you tie your shoes. You have all the time you need." One and a half hours later, rumpled, sweaty, and exhausted, Robert completed the last step. "You did it! I knew you could tie your shoes!" Dan said. "Told ya," said Robert. Dan has spoken of Robert to audiences around the world as "a giant in the realm of spirit - a master of self-discipline."

- Linda Kavelin Popov, Sacred Moments - Daily Meditations on The Virtues.©1996

As an inspiring international speaker on the cultivation of personal and corporate virtues, character education, women's development and community healing, psychotherapist and organizational development consultant Linda Kavelin Popov is a charter member of the National Think Tank on Character for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is on the Advisory Editorial Board for the Spirituality and Ethics segment on CTV National News in Canada. In 2001 she received a Women of Distinction Award from the YW/YMCA. Her work is being applied in communities traumatized by student murders, in day-care centers, prisons and by diverse faith communities. She has been a guest on the Oprah Show and many other talk shows addressing strategies for transforming violence to virtues. She co-produced the television series Virtues: A Family Affair and has written the books and materials which form the core of The Virtues Project™.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

·         Galatians 5

The Gardener of My Soul

George Walter Fiske often told the story of a cartoon depicting a young lady who, just graduated from college and diploma in hand, was soon enough being confronted by the grim visage of the old World himself. "Well, who have we here?" says the World. "You evidently don't know me," replied the slightly pained young graduate; "I am Virginia Cordelia Smith, A.B." "My dear girl," replied the World, "come with me, and I will teach you the rest of your alphabet."

There are few, if any positions in life that have no difficulties. Higher education is not only found in the halls of institutions for higher learning. Mistakes made in the process of living often form our best experience. Wisdom is learned more from failure than from success, and we are more likely to discover what we will do by determining what we will not do. Horne Tooke used to say that he had become all the more acquainted with the country from having the good fortune of losing his way. But there are times when, to do something which may seem impossible, there is no other way than to exercise discipline and go forth.

The World has a way of placing one difficulty after the other, taking away these two and adding a third, heavier, perhaps, than either, but never so heavy that we are broken rather than bruised. Oddly enough, there is never more than can be borne. Each individual is given sufficient strength for the day. Each task sent to teach something, and altogether they form a lesson that is difficult for one experience alone to teach. Self-discipline is a process of learning to use the strengths within to simply get past such difficulties and press on to the next, while taking the lesson along as a reminder. Each application of fire tempers the soul in its strength of character. Each act of self-mastery adds to the storehouse of a peaceful soul.

Putting off that which may seem distasteful or onerous only steals time from a productive life. Some tasks simply must be done, some lessons apprehended, before life can go on. Procrastination is the thief of time, according to Edward Young. Pearl S. Buck urged her readers to move forward, not to wait for the mood to strike, but to train the mind to know when it was time to get to work.

Self-mastery, self-discipline, call it what you wish: it is a life-long thing for me, always something to which I return, again and again. Most lessons I have learned somehow involve self-discipline. It seems to be at the core of a great deal of my experiences, and still it comes around, almost daily, reminding me of its necessity in my life. And, often, I continue to resist. What would it be like to give up my resistance to self-mastery?

Freedom awaits those who master themself, according to most religious doctrine. True liberation is the divine gift of submission to spiritual laws. Bahá'u'lláh taught, "Were men to observe that which We have sent down unto them from the Heaven of Revelation, they would, of a certainty, attain unto perfect liberty."

I am thankful for the gift of self-discipline in my life. It is the gardener of my soul. God, help me to surrender to the power and the peace of self-discipline.

I am ready to blossom, to grow, to be free, to manage my time efficiently, to persevere in the midst of adversity. Through self-mastery, I become ready to take on the impossible.


email: Michael@N-Spire.com

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