The Freedom of Discipline

Cassie Schutzer
Thursday, June 15, 2023

When I was in college, I was asked to give a witness talk for our Catholic center’s annual retreat. I was really excited…that is, until I received my topic: resolution and commitment.

Honestly, it sounded so dull to me, especially given the other topics of prayer, love, the Holy Spirit, and faith.

Fast forward a few years to my early 20’s. My best friend and I would go to concerts every week and then drive home through the night to make it to work the next day. I remember us deciding that one of our biggest fears was growing up and becoming boring.


It wasn’t my favorite word then, and it can still be a struggle for me now.

I saw discipline as something that stifled freedom. Something that took away my choices. Something that robbed me of my personality. Something that “dulled my sparkle,” as my friends and I would say.

Now that I have some perspective, I see it differently.

Here are four things I have learned about discipline as a young adult:

  1. Discipline teaches consequences. Usually, our first encounter with discipline is in our childhood through rules and consequences. If you break a rule, there is a consequence. This is also important for us as adults, since we tend to hurt ourselves and others when we live a life devoid of consequences. When we stay up all night, we are tired for work the next day. When we decide to scroll social media or binge watch a Netflix series instead of doing chores, we are left with a pile of dirty laundry and a sink full of dishes. It’s our prerogative to make the decisions we do, but there is always a consequence. We learn about right and wrong, good decisions, healthy boundaries, forgiveness, redemption, and growth by experiencing the consequences of our actions.

  2. Living with discipline gives order to our lives. When our lives are rightly ordered, with God at the center, everything else falls into its proper place. Having discipline allows us to identify the things that come between us and God and either remove or reduce their influence in our life. For me, it’s my phone. I can easily lose track of time when I’m scrolling Instagram reels. In order to give a proper amount of time to God throughout the day, I have to remove those kinds of distractions. I can only do this through disciplining myself and fasting from the things I know aren’t good for me in large doses.

  3. Discipline provides stability. One thing I never thought I would desire for my life is stability. So much of my 20’s was feeling like I was in transition. I was in between childhood and adulthood; I was discovering who I was and what I was meant to do with my life. Everything from my job to my living situation felt temporary. Now that I feel more settled, I realize that one of the gifts of living a disciplined life is to have a stable foundation to build upon. Last year, I moved to a new city, nine hours away from all my friends and family. I don’t think I could have done it without my faith in God and my inner stability born of discipline.

  4. There is great freedom through discipline. As contradictory as it sounds, when we live a disciplined life, it allows us the freedom to follow God’s call in our life without reservation. We are free from the things that distract us or turn our eyes away from God, we are more open to His promptings in our life. I once heard a priest say that true freedom is not a “freedom from” but a “freedom to.” In other words, true freedom is not the removal of all rules and expectations so that we might do whatever we want. Instead, true freedom is when we are unhampered in our ability to respond to God’s call. It’s a freedom to follow Him.

Discipline is not meant to take away our freedom or punish us unjustly, but to help orient our hearts and our lives toward God. As Paul writes in the letter to the Hebrews:

You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons:

“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”

Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?

…He does so for our benefit,
in order that we may share his holiness.

At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.