Discipline as Freedom

As we’ve progressed through Lent, at what seems like a shockingly quick pace to me, I’ve had a pretty constant theme going in my classroom, and it’s been overtaking my thoughts in general. What has dominated my thought, likely to the annoyance of some of my students, is the idea that our Lenten disciplines are actually the very things that will lead us to the freedom of our Easter joy.

So often, we think of freedom in terms of its negative definition, simply being a lack of rules or obligations. In light of that approach, hearing someone say that disciplines like fasting, prayer, and almsgiving will make you more free seems a tremendous contradiction. But that’s exactly the problem with the negative definition, it only tells half the story. Freedom actually has two major aspects, freedom from and freedom for. The way we talk about freedom in general focuses almost exclusively on the freedom from, without ever asking what that freedom is for. What is it, exactly that our freedom is for?

Our freedom should obviously be directed towards our happiness, but how do we get there? The key to knowing what will make us happy is knowing what we are made for. Our happiness will come from fulfilling what we were created to be. To this end, our goal is virtue. Virtue can be thought of as a habitual tendency toward the good. The habitual part is the key, and why discipline is so important. In our sinfulness, we are weak to the temptations of vice and must, in turn, train and develop our habits of virtue through discipline. In doing so, we gain our freedom from sin so that we can be free for our destiny, happiness with our Creator in this life and the next.

How has your Lent been going? Have you maintained your disciplines? Where have you struggled and where have you triumphed? Let us know in the comments or at Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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