Killing the old man

October 21, 2023

Why the chaos?

The global self help industry is worth over 46 billion US dollars, yet everywhere people are falling apart. Broken homes, families, and relationships. Lack of knowledge is not our problem.

As a Christian, I have a view on this and while we (Christians) are certainly not immune from the problems and tragedy of life; we know why it happens and try to order our lives accordingly.

If we are walking this journey correctly, we are not only hearers of the Word, but doers of it as well. (James 1 22-25) Our aim is progressive sanctification, the pursuit of daily holiness. We accept the bible as authoritative with all the answers for living well in a busted world.

To paraphrase Cecil B DeMille, “We don’t break the moral law, We can only break ourselves against it”. In our conscience and our hearts, we know the line between right and wrong, but all of us think the rules don’t apply to us. Naively, we think we will get away with it; but we must always ‘pay the piper’.

Whose fault is it, anyway?

Eventually we are seen waving our arms in distress, as life collapses around us and we cry - “not my fault” or “that’s just the way I am,” as we lament our inability to make progress or live successfully, but how much better life would be if we all grasped the nettle of applied Christianity, personal responsibility and self-discipline more firmly.

Proverbs 5 v 23 reminds us.."He dies for lack of discipline and because of his great folly he is led astray."

Are we lacking old-fashioned self-discipline?

When was the last time you heard someone talking about the virtues of self discipline in real life? Sure, there might be a bit online, but as I scan the high street and look at people parading past, willpower is missing from their lives; from their dress, their manners, and their shape. People everywhere have given up.

When you have been too comfortable for too long, self-discipline sounds like a lot of effort. Discussing it here, probably conjures up images of cold showers and broccoli every day for the rest of your life. There is, of course, an element of hardship to self-discipline, but my interest is about how and when you apply it.

Like every area of life, you must become a master of the rules before you can break them. We break the rules at our peril. For self-discipline, this is not something you will master in a week, but it is a lifelong spiritual and mental battle in the art of killing sin. When we short circuit the process, it is like not giving glue enough time to set.

The 5 operating zones of life

I believe there are 5 zones of life.

Broadly, we inhabit a zone at any given moment  - most of us spend too much time in the first two zones, because they require little thought or work. To reach our potential, we must pass through a tolled passage way. The price is doing the necessary hard and boring stuff for extended periods. Without paying the price, you will never fulfil your God-given destiny of taking dominion or what I call “Taking territory”. That is, operating in “the zone”, in a state of flow, living the life you were supposed to.

To be successful you have to master each level, We must be disciplined to avoid idleness. Wise enough to take the appropriate rest. Eager to break through the inertia. Then we should be disciplined in mending life’s fences, managing entropy and finally, we need a dose of self-discipline to get us into the most profitable zone - that of taking territory.

It is this latter area that gives life its meaning. Most of us struggle to get here because the foundations are not sound.

Playing with self-discipline

I know my frame well. I am not naturally an ordered individual. At heart I’m disorganised and a little absentminded, but within this lies my superpower: the ability to dive deeply into the chaos and not be crushed by it, finding pearls of wisdom and sunken treasure. When I resurface, I have claimed what many can’t.

Unlike lots of guys, my wardrobe or tool shed will never be laid out in alphabetical order, but I have learned there must be some order to allow me to progress. If I’m not in motion; if I’m not well rested; if I can’t find what I need easily; if I haven’t maintained my world; I can never expect to move into the exhilarating world of dominion. For if the preparatory and foundational work is not done, time spent in this zone will be short.

The scuba diver

The metaphor that helps me is that of a scuba diver - before he dives safely, several things have to be in place. He must maintain his health and fitness. The boat to take him to the dive zone must be serviceable. His equipment must be inspected and finally the diving cylinders must be filled with the correct gas mix for the task at hand. That first 20 minute dive is the culmination of hours if not weeks of preparatory background work. The more regularly you wish to dive, the more you have to keep the pre-dive plates spinning.


Mastery is about dealing with finite time. Which things will you allow to slide for the moment in order to spend the maximum time in the “Taking Territory” zone? How will you catch up?

Self Discipline - for example, has been spent writing this article. I have written it over 2 mornings starting each day at 6am. My belief is that the hours, weeks and months of self-discipline will allow me to burn brighter, for longer during the moments that really count.

Self discipline keeps us on the narrow path. Every day we have choices to make about our direction and make no mistake self-discipline is a volitional act. We can choose the seemingly easy option or we can stay the course.

Like the Proverb above says, when we neglect our willpower, we will drift off the path and stray into calamity. Self-discipline is a muscle to be exercised daily because it atrophies quickly.

Self-discipline is the secret sauce. Even just a little applied each day in a consistent area will reap significant results.

Find your pain points. Work out why it is going wrong and apply the band aid of self-discipline.

Main photo from flickr at this link

Creative commons licence attribution 2.0 Generic -image cropped