freedom and discipline

How Can Freedom and Discipline Co-Exist in a Healthy Lifestyle?

How can freedom and discipline co-exist in a healthy lifestyle? Aren’t they kind of opposites? If you’re disciplined, you’re not free to do whatever you want to do.  

This space is all about living fit and free. Well, you can’t be fit if you’re free to do whatever you want, or free not do whatever you don’t feel like doing, right?  

The Bible has a lot to say about discipline but also about freedom. Self-discipline is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. And yet Christ died to set us free.  

How do we reconcile the need for freedom and discipline in living a sustainable healthy lifestyle?

First, let’s consider the importance of boundaries. Boundaries are a type of restriction, and therefore discipline, but within those boundaries is freedom.  

When my son was becoming mobile and starting to crawl around, I put him in a pack ‘n play. He was free to move around within that space and play with the toys I provided, but he couldn’t get out. The boundaries provided safety for him.

As he got older, he could go outside but had to stay inside the fenced in yard. Again those boundaries provided safety for him, but he was free to play in the sand box, ride his three-wheeler, and toss a ball inside that area.  

How freedom and discipline co-exist in a healthy lifestyle. #healthyliving #fitandfree Share on X

It’s the same with our healthy lifestyle.  

Self-discipline provides the boundaries in which we can experience our freedom. And the boundaries for each of us may look quite different.

When my son was about six years old, he went to his friend’s house where he had a huge yard. My son asked his friend if that was his grass. You see, our yard is small and actually just a bricked patio area. We live in town, and his friend lived in the country. His friend’s freedom and discipline (boundaries) looked differently than my son’s. And yet it worked for each of them. Each simply learned how to comply with what they had access to.

Let’s look at two verses from scripture about this topic:

1 Corinthians 9:27 (NKJV): But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection

Romans 6:19 (NKJV): I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

Taking 1 Corinthians 9:27 into account…

Discipline in this case is not to be looked at as a negative thing. We see self-discipline listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 as mentioned earlier. The Lord needs to be in control of all aspects of our lives down to how we spend our time and the things that we eat. ⁣

I’m not an advocate of counting calories or getting caught up with strict rules when it comes to eating and exercise; however, that does not give clearance to eat however you want. If it were up to me, I could eat M&Ms all day long. While a few, perhaps even daily, would be considered fine, indulging in handfuls everyday is not. ⁣

We need to put boundaries in place which requires us to discipline ourselves. Without the self-discipline we may end up unhealthy and lethargic. ⁣

This could also pertain to your schedule. Are you staying up late watching television shows when you could be sleeping so you’re well-rested and your body has time to recover from the day? Are you hitting snooze instead of getting up for daily devotionals? ⁣

Exercise is important not only for weight loss but also, and more more importantly, for a healthy heart, flexibility, energy, and longevity. It may not be something you feel like doing every day, but that’s where discipline comes in – getting up early if necessary even if we would prefer to lay in bed. ⁣

Biblical encouragement for your healthy lifestyle. God gives us freedom and helps us practice self-discipline. Share on X

Now looking at Romans 6:19…

One translation says it more like this “…you are weak in your natural selves…you used to offer parts of your body in slavery to impurity…now offer them in slavery to righteousness…”

In her book “Made to Crave,” Lysa TerKeurst writes “these boundaries are in place for our freedom.”

We often tell small children they can play in a specified area, say our fenced in yard like I illustrated earlier. They have the freedom to roam anywhere within the safety of the fence. Those boundaries are there for their safety. They can run free and still stay safe. If we let our child run out the front door, they may be free but they are not safe. In fact, they are in danger.

It’s the same with our health and fitness. We may have access to all types of food, but it’s not in our best interest to eat it all. It’s not healthy for our bodies. You might find it helpful to journal what you eat to learn how you respond to certain foods and even when and why you are eating particular things. 

When I’m training for an event, I often follow a training plan. If you want to run a half marathon, you need to be prepared to cover the distance. You have the freedom to choose your pace, but if you have chosen that distance you need to add the mileage regularly and safely.

Some examples of what it looks like for freedom and discipline co-exist

A couple of years ago the Boston Marathon was a complete rain event from start to finish. But those runners had disciplined themselves by training for that event. I’ve run over a dozen marathons. One year it was raining. That’s a wet 26.2 miles in either of those situations. Runners have the freedom to decide whether to toe the start line, but because we had disciplined ourselves and gone through the training, we choose to run the race.

We have the freedom to choose when we get up in the morning…to a degree. I know there is work and school. But getting up early to have devotional time, workout time, etc. takes discipline.  

Take eating cookies. There’s nothing wrong with having a cookie or two. Of course you have the freedom to eat a dozen if you’d like, BUT how will you feel afterwards? Probably not so good. Even though you might want a third or a fourth, it may take discipline to say no to the extras. Yet in the end you’ll feel satisfied rather than stuffed.

Our victory depends on staying within the safe boundaries God has set for us.

Do you need support on your healthy living journey?  Do you struggle with how freedom and discipline can co-exist in your life?  Check out my Support and Accountability Community where we have daily support and accountability and help with putting this into practice.

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