Short essays written for the La Jolla Veteran's Hospital newsletter in La Jolla, California
In previous Chaplain's Corner articles I have pointed out the futility of making so called "New Year's Resolutions." The are vague, abstract and lack the specific steps to bring resolutions into effect.i Now what is not futile is to cultivating the cure for the illness that inflicts so many of us, that in part make such resolutions useless. This psycho-spiritual disease is called listlessness. It is the inactivity stemming from lassitude, lack of vigor and energy. Its cure is to develop self-discipline.
Self-discipline is an orderly way of life. In contemporary smartphone or tablet terminology it becomes a step by step psycho-spiritual and behavioral 'To-Do' list. As is common among various religious traditions, they focus on similar counsels to attain perfection. Self discipline is one such path. In Hinduism points out: "Turbulent by nature, the senses even of a wise man, who is practicing self-control, forcibly carry away his mind, Arjuna.ii In the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, the last three, focus on the components of self-Discipline: right effort, mindfulness and concentration.iii Islam teaches that to effect such change individuals must take on responsibility for action. "Surely Allah changes not the condition of a people, until they change their own condition."iv
In Christianity St. Paul makes the necessity of discipline quite explicit. He likens being in the favor of God's Kingdom to be the crown that is received after the endurance it takes of running and winning a race. He writes in to the Corinthians:
Ye know, do ye not, that they who run in a stadium all indeed run, but one receiveth the prize? Thus keep on running that ye might obtain. And everyone who contendeth exerciseth self-control in all things; indeed then, those do it that they might receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I run therefore thus, not as uncertain; thus I box, not as beating the air. But I buffet my body and bring it into bondage, lest, having preached to others, I myself should become unapproved. (1Cor 9:24-27).
The Eastern Church Father St. John Chrysostom would see this discipline as "the part of a master not of a combatant, of a teacher not of a foe, of a gymnastic trainer not of an adversary.”v St. Isaac of Syria caps the rewards in stor for us by discipline. He writes: Good order [discipline] generates peace, peace gives birth to light in the soul and peace makes the pure air in the mind radiant ... draws near to wisdom ... receives joy from God."vi How much better is cultivating self-discipline than promising oneself unattainable resolutions.
v Hom. 23, P.G. 61:202 (col. 190).]
vi Holy Transfiguration Monastery. (ed., trans.). (2011). The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian(revised, 2nd edition). Boston, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery.
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.
Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)
Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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