As a boy, I wanted to become an artist when I grew up, so I started looking into it. Every professional artist I spoke with gave me the same advice, “Learn to draw when you don’t want to.” At the time, this made no sense to me, yet as I grew older, I began to understand what it meant. The reasoning behind this tidbit of wisdom was simple. Anyone can draw when they’re inspired, when they’re in the mood, or when they have time to kill. Not everyone can draw when they’re tired, when they’re feed up with drawing, when racing a deadline, and when they have twenty other things on their mind. One is a hobby, the other a profession. “Do what you have to, not what you want to.” This was my first glimpse of true self-discipline.
As a kid, our parents told us when to go to bed, or what to eat, or how to dress, or what kind of friends we should or shouldn’t have. They forced upon us the obligation of homework and curfews. It was their role to keep us in check as they become the physical embodiment of the old roman goddess Disciplina. And as a child, we couldn’t wait till we grew up to do whatever the hell we wanted.
I would love to speak of how mistaken we should have been, but unfortunately society has become a hive of adults who lived on with that childhood delusion. We should have learned why responsible bedtimes exist, yet all night TV binge watching has proven otherwise. We should have learned why healthy eating habits exist, yet the epidemic of obesity has proven otherwise. We should have learned about the importance of responsibility, and obligations, and sharing, and charity, and kindness, and manners. The current states of affairs of this world have proven otherwise.
We live in a society that frowns upon self-control and self-restraint, so these lessons are rarely followed. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at how we react towards any comment promoting any kind self-discipline or even restraint. Greed becomes commendable when we measure success. Pride and vanity is celebrated though social media popularity. Wrath is little more than the alpha personality so prized by most motivational groups and a commendable emotion of every social justice warrior out there. Sloth and gluttony are embraced in a Binge watching society that embraces “accept me as I am” body types, were the Dad Bod becomes the norm. And lust? Just look at how easy sex sells anything.
There was a reason why the epitome of Roman “manliness” was based around the cult to the goddess Disciplina. Roman manhood, or “Virtus”, wasn’t defined by how many men you could defeat or how many women you could satisfy, but rather by how you could hold yourself back and how much control you had over yourself. It was about conquering your ego and the slavery that comes from self-gratification, as you conquered vanity, fear, pain, and self pity. The difference between a boy and a man was simple. A man had self-discipline.
Before we can even begin with lessons of character or even integrity, we need to develop our self discipline. It’s having enough self discipline to not act like an unsupervised child. We need to be our own enforcers, or own guardians. We need to learn to tell ourselves ‘No’ and keep ourselves in check.
As a grown man, you shouldn’t need to have your mother tell you what’s the right thing to do. You should already have learned that lesson. We need to learn that helping others shouldn’t be born from your mother’s request, but rather from your consciences. We need to learn that bills need to be paid before throwing away money on fanciful whims. We need to learn that has to be given respect freely but can only be received when earned. We need to leash our “basic” self through discipline and control.
Only then can you call yourself a man.