Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Roosevelt’s words remind us that for many people, the greatest enemy with which they have to contend is not failure, but mediocrity.
We see this kind of person in every walk of life. We see them in business, whether in leadership, management, sales, or logistical support. We see them in the realm of physical fitness or other health related issues. We also see them in the spiritual realm, where the enemy is not spiritual wipe-out where some heinous sin ruins a person’s spiritual walk, but the enemy instead is spiritual mediocrity.
A life truth that each of us needs to grasp is this: Mediocrity really is optional. Whether or not we come to the end of life and the label “mediocre” gets attached to our names is a personal choice each of us gets to make.
An important enemy of mediocrity is discipline. Whether you’re speaking about one’s spiritual walk or one’s professional life, discipline is a key life quality. In general, discipline refers to control, order, regulations, restraint, training, obedience to standards, and life lived in accordance with rules. Discipline refers to the willingness to keep one’s hand to the grindstone so that desired results can be accomplished even when he/she does not feel like it.
Some discipline comes from external sources. For example, the threat of job loss or the fear of going bankrupt can keep some people disciplined in their jobs. But ultimately if a person is to succeed in life and avoid mediocrity and failure, he or she must be self-disciplined. The late Bum Phillips, former head coach of the Houston Oilers, once said, “The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.” The mark of the mature professional and of the mature Christian is that they produce, not because of external pressure, but because of internal pressure he/she generates for him/herself.
From where does self-discipline arise in a person’s life? It arises from commitment to what the individual deems to be a noble purpose. It is commitment to a noble purpose which leads to the ultimate expressions of self-discipline: saying yes to those actions which will lead to victory and success, and saying no to those actions which will inhibit the chances of victory and success. For example, it is commitment to good health and weight management which will cause an individual to say yes to getting out of bed and exercising, and to say no to sleeping in and doing nothing. Are you lacking in self-discipline? Most likely you will find the reason behind door number (1): lack of noble purpose, or door number (2) lack of commitment.
There are a lot of noble purposes which one can use to generate self-discipline, but according to the Bible there is one noble purpose which stands above all others. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8 the Apostle Paul says, “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The self-discipline arising from a commitment to godliness is ultimately best because it is profitable for all things and for all times and for all people.
About the Author
Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.