“The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good”.— Proverbs 10:17 (MSG)
If you know my husband and I, you know we are always down for a challenge. This October, we participated in Sober October. No alcohol for the whole month. And here is what I learned; its all about the word no.
If we were being honest with ourselves, I believe we have lost the art of saying no. And I wholeheartedly believe this is causing a fundamental character flaw in who we are as individuals and a culture. Without the need for discipline, we have forgotten what it means to be disciplined, and as a result we do not see or understand all the freedom that it brings.
So here is what I learned from Sober October. By NO means am I master on ANY of this. These words are from my heart because they are being worked on, chewed on, and dwelled on between me and God. This is for me as it is for you.
PSA, I am NOT attacking drinking. I merely used drinking as a medium to learn some MUCH bigger life lessons. I love wine, I love social drinking, alcohol was just the area of my life that taught me so much more. This blog is not about alcohol at all, it’s about discipline. So here goes.
- Discipline Leads to Freedom.
Alright, say this one with me again. Discipline leads to freedom. This sounds so counter intuitive, but it is so life-giving my friends.
Discipline allows us to either say no to the things we shouldn’t or yes to the things we should. Often, we have the two backwards. We say yes to what we shouldn’t and no to what we should. Other than being in conflict between your heart and your actions, the result of not saying no when you should is that what you failed to say no to consumes all the areas that you are dying to say yes to. When we say no to all the wrong things, we leave not time, energy, and resources to say yes to all the things that set our hearts on fire. There is only so much you can put on your plate; choose to put things on there that serve who you want to be tomorrow, not what you are craving that moment. Yes, my taste buds are craving that glass of wine. But there’s a deep part of my soul that is craving for something so much greater. Give in to that.
Discipline is a short-term sacrifice that gives you long term health and freedom to actually live the life that you are longing for, dreaming of, and praying about. And there is nothing wrong with projecting hope and faith to the future, but your heart needs to backed up with your actions, otherwise your dreams will remain just that.
2. Say No to Yourself.
I do not always do what is best for myself. If we all took a real honest look at ourselves and our choices we would find this to be true. We can be our worst enemy and self sabotage is a real thing.
We go along for the ride in our own emotions because saying no to ourselves is something that we just don’t do. Just because I think it, want it, or crave it does not mean I have to go through with it.
It is a very unpopular opinion, but you are responsible for your thoughts. You are called to take each one of them captive, and then decide whether or not they have a place in your mind. You are called to be responsible over your emotions; to make them your servants not your masters, and to decide which ones to act upon. You’ll always have positive and negative thoughts, but the beauty is YOU get to decide which one you listen to.
For me, the first step in developing discipline in my life was saying no to the thoughts that keep me in habits that don’t serve the woman I am trying to become.
3. Being Accountable for yourself– taking responsibility for the times you failed to say no.
We take accountability for our successes in life, and then blame our failures on literally anything and anyone other than ourselves.
We can’t grow and develop personal responsibility if we can’t acknowledge the areas we have dropped the ball. The first step to being responsible and accountable over all areas of your life is to take claim over all the areas of your life– especially the ones you pretend aren’t there, or justify aren’t that big of a deal; I wasn’t drunk I was just buzzed, I wasn’t out of control, I was just having some fun for once… we throw out justifications like candy.
Stop it. Own yourself, especially on the areas that you try to keep secret, downlplay, or justify. That is a huge red flag that there is brokenness and dysfunction that needs to be addressed. With an honest heart start there. Be brutally honest with yourself, what actions and poor choices are you justifying?
Whatever they are, own them so that you can change them. You owe it to yourself and to others to be accountable for the areas that you fall short on. What you turn a blind eye to and keep in the dark will continue to grow and consume your life. What seems justifiable in the moment will become an inescapable problem in the future. Justifications allow you a get out-of-jail free card from immediate consequences, but down the road you’ll have to face the increasing pile-up of your choices and the compounding heartache they’ll acquire.
I want to make a very clear point. Yes you are to own the areas of brokenness in your life to be accountable for them, but you are not to hold on to them. Own them long enough to surrender the broken areas of your life to God. He is the ultimate healer and redeemer. But he cant mend what you pretend isn’t yours. So pick up the areas that are causing dysfunction, take accountability for them, then give them to the One who can turn them into something beautiful.
4. Your new accountability and discipline will shed light on others lack of, and it gets weird.
The first reaction when we told people we were doing Sober October was why?! The second was to sabotage. For some reason people get uncomfortable when they see you saying no, laying down boundaries, and living in a way that is counter culture to the one they are in.
The lack of alcohol in your hand only highlights the one in theirs. Your ability to say no to yourself puts on display their inability to themselves. And what I learned is that when people are doing something that they intellectually feel guilty, wrong, or shame about they want to get as many people as possible to join them; because if everyone is doing it, then it can’t be that bad right? Wrong. Just because something is popular or a cultural norm, does not make it right or good for you in the long run.
That trendy habit your living by… “Do you boo boo” “treat yourself” “living my truth” is exciting and freeing for a moment, but eventually you may just find yourself in a places that don’t reflect who you are and what you are called to do in this world: debt, loneliness, addiction, hopelessness. Lifestyles that promise freedom usually imprison you. Everything comes with a price.
5. My life got better; more clarity, inspiration, and direction.
This relates back to the first point. Discipline leads to freedom. The short term sacrifice brings with long term opportunity.By saying no to drinking for October I had the time and energy to say yes to the things my heart has been longing to do: like starting this blog. Saying no gave me the space to say yes.
I felt a sense of empowerment over the idea that I can say no, and with that came the realization that I am responsible for all my choices and all their outcomes; good and bad. Turning a blind eye or a justification to my poor choices gets me nowhere. It only enables me to further making poor choices pulling me farther and farther away from my dreams and potential.
God has called each and every one of us to an incredible life of purpose, direction, and impact. But the hard truth is, most of our choices are keeping us from walking in this calling, our own decisions are putting us in places and on paths that don’t lead were we were created to go. It’s an incredibly hard pill to swallow but here it is: society isn’t keeping you from your dreams, your choices are. There is something so empowering about being responsible for yourself; otherwise you are at the mercy of the world. So start today. Say no to something or someone that you know is keeping you from what your heart truly wants. Make room for the yes.