Question:

Hi, I am 17 years old and have been a Christian since I was 8. I have a problem and don't feel comfortable enough to discuss it with anyone I know personally. Ok, so here is my problem: my parents never punish me for anything. I really am not a bad kid and I try my best to be a good Christian and honor and respect my parents like I should, but as a teenager it is hard sometimes. I have never been grounded in my life and I stopped getting spanked around 10. So basically I have not had to answer for anything in about 7 years. My parents will just get mad and I'll storm to my room and later when I come out it is never mentioned again. It is frustrating for me and I have a tendency to beat myself up about things. I also think my school work would benefit if I had more discipline in my life and I just don't know how to get it. My parents are also having problems with their relationship and I feel like I shouldn't bother them with my problems. And whenever I come anywhere close to mentioning it to my mom she goes off on how my dad blames her for everything that we do wrong, so I feel guilty and don't broach the subject again.

I am just at a loss for what to do. I really think I need discipline in my life and I feel like I deserve to be punished for things that I say or do sometimes but nothing ever happens. I just feel guilty about it later and try not to do it again, but it stresses me out because I am the kid and I wish that someone would make me own up to wrong I do sometimes. I think it would make me a better person and help me both spiritually and in just about everything else. Do you have any advice for me?


Answer:

Discipline comes in several forms, there is negative and positive discipline. Negative discipline comes in the form of punishment. Positive discipline comes in the form of what we make ourselves do, whether we feel like it or not. But discipline also can be divided between those things which are imposed on us and those things which we impose on ourselves.

I've run across a number of people who are uncomfortable facing the fact that they are responsible for themselves as an adult. In some ways discipline was easier when it was imposed on us as a child. Not only did we not have to remain conscious of what we should and should not do, we also had the freedom to gripe at those who imposed that discipline -- even when we knew deep down that it was for our own good.

You're at a crossroad in life where you are between childhood and adulthood. You enjoy the freedoms, but at the same time you don't want the responsibilities. In essence, you long for the past when others took responsibility for your actions and imposed discipline on you. But it can't happen that way. God isn't going to stand over you and force you to do what you know you should do. Nor can your parents continue to do that service for you. Scary as it is, it is time to stand on your own two feet.

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (I Corinthians 9:24-27).

Does an Olympic athlete succeed because the coach makes him practice or because he has an inner drive to succeed? A coach helps keep him focus, but at any time an athlete can say, "Forget it!" and walk off. He doesn't, however, because he wants the prize.

It is no different for a Christian. As a preacher, I can serve as a coach telling a person what they need to do and scolding them when they get too lazy, but in the end the person who makes the difference is you. No one can force you, in the long run, to do what is right. That has to be your choice.

Among the fruit of the Spirit is the idea of self-control (Galatians 5:23). The Greek word is enkrateia, which means to be in full control of oneself, disciplined, or temperate. It is an area that Christians are expected to grow stronger in (II Peter 1:6).

So, if you have problems, discuss them with someone: your parents, a preacher, an elder, or an older member of the church. Take advantage of their wisdom in learning how to manage problems. Don't take the irresponsible way out of wanting someone else to make the decisions or force you into doing the right thing. Decide what is right, based on God's word because it is Truth, and then impose discipline on yourself to do what is right.

When you slip up, of course you should feel guilty. It is the people who aren't bothered by their own sins who are the dangerous people in the world. Use that guilt as a prod to change course and do better. And again discussing the problems with someone more knowledgeable or more experienced can help you come up with strategies to avoid temptation. "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:9-11).

Yes, there will always be those pushing you to improve yourself. Your boss is going to push you to be a better worker. You preacher and fellow Christians are going to push you to be a better Christian. Even God will push you to grow stronger.

"And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:5-15).

It is childish to grumble about those "forcing" you to do what you already know is the right thing to do. It would be like the athlete grumbling about how the coach is making him practice. If he is truly unhappy about doing the work, he won't succeed because in the end no one can make another person do what they are determined not to do. What you find is that, though they don't enjoy it, athletes embrace the imposed discipline knowing that it makes them a better person.

You too must see that those around you who have your best interest in mind are going to push you to become all that you can be. They are going to prod you when you don't feel like moving because they, and you, know that you can do more. Rather than turn against those who push you in the right direction, embrace it because you know it is making you a better person.

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Thank you so very much for taking your time to give me advice. It helped a lot and I really appreciate it.