What it means to be Disciplined

Years ago we had a family of four stay with us for a few days. They were traveling though the US from Israel. Thanks to Couchsurfing, we met.

(For those of you who have never heard of Couchsurfing, it is a “hosting” website which brings people together to share their homes with one another when traveling. It’s like Match.com in that you complete a detailed profile in order to offer/request accommodations; it’s unlike Match.com in that there is no implied obligation or agreement that anything be exchanged. Since joining up with Couchsurfing, our family has hosted dozens of families. We’ve also been guests with dozens of folks from here to Nevada, along the Pacific Coast, up to Quebec and Montreal, and points in between. Were it not for this internet gem promoting generosity, we wouldn’t have been able to travel as we have for the last many years.)

Rachel, Oren, and their two small children were wonderful guests whom we’ve now seen twice since their initial stay. They are visiting us — and their American family —  this coming April. Our family hopes the day will come when we visit them in Haifa.

Since our first time together, Rachel and I have been Facebook friends. As much as I love seeing her growing family — they now have a third child — I have a hard time seeing a lot of her posts. Here is an example:

I have no idea what is written there, but I guess it’s something like: “Why love one and eat the other? All animals can feel both love and pain. Go vegan.”

Now, I haven’t eaten cow since I was fifteen. I was a vegetarian for twenty-five years before becoming vegan. I’m a card-carrying member of the “be kind to animals” choir; and yet, when I see I a post of hers, like this, it hurts my heart.

And that post which I share is mild compared to most.

Rachel is relentless. I imagine she’s lost Facebook friends; I imagine she’s been blocked; I bet there are people who squint their eyes in order to scroll past the bloody and violent images which she posts. (I know I have.)

Bear in mind, what she posts are legitimate images of how we humans have subjugated and exploited animals. Sadly, I’m confident she’ll never run out of material to share.

And I don’t think she’ll ever stop.

I imagine she can’t. Rachel is so utterly compelled to advocate for animals, she cannot curb her actions.

She is disciplined.

I’ve been meditating on this word a lot lately.

A friend recently called me “disciplined.” I think she was referring to my posting to this blog daily or my practicing yoga six days a week. She could have been referring to other things, too: my diet, my choice not to drink, my waking up early every day. Whatever it was, I waved my hand at her characterization of me — laughed it off. Me? Disciplined?


Not me. Not when I have actual people to whom I can readily compare myself.

I thought of Rachel. I think of monks. I think of marathon runners. I think of many, many others. And today, I am thinking of MLK Jr.

All of those people fall under the mantle of “disciplined.”

In fact, those people are “disciples” to their beliefs.

Discipulus is Latin for “instruction/knowledge.” While I’d not made the connection until this morning, how obvious is it that both “discipline” and “disciple” come from the same root?

We tend to think of “disciples” as those who whole-heartedly give themselves over to a cause, maybe even somewhat blindly. We tend to regard “discipline” as a way to train someone to something and use punishment to correct any misbehavior.

Despite the shared Latin root, it seems unnecessary to “discipline” a “disciple.” There is simply no need to inflict external punishment because disciples come to their commitment from an internal voice telling them they must do “X” in order to be fully and properly committed to their cause. Any punishment they might levy is self-flagellation, and I’d argue more scathing than one received from an observing instructor.

It’s a challenge having these “disciples” among us. They exemplify a single-mindedness which in so many ways is admirable in its precise focus. These people change our world with their relentlessness.

The other day, I was invited to my in-laws’ to watch the football game. They had baked brie. I would have liked the taste of it. Who would it have hurt?

Then a photo Rachel posted years ago came to mind. “Who it hurt” was clear in my mind.

For that I am both thankful to her and amazed at her discipline.

7 thoughts on “What it means to be Disciplined

    1. A translator reads this blog!

      Thank you Jacob.

      He explains that the words alongside the picture of the dog and the cow are:

      “There are people for whom this one is for the mouth and this one is for the heart, for me they are all in the heart.”


  1. I enjoyed very much to read this blog, When people tell me that being a vegan will never change the world, because we won’t be able to convince all the people on this plant to give up meat, I tell them that we have to take it step by step and we need to start with one and pass it o to others, and never give up, also when it’s hard to face some people with this subject. the end of black slavery, women’s rights, children’s rights were not achieved in one day, so we should never lose hope for animals’ liberation .
    (this week was a special treat, a friend of mine and her husband decided to become vegan after reading my posts).
    See you in April, and thank you,

    Liked by 1 person

      1. there are so many in this march, but not enough. Israel is one of the leading countries in this revolution (5% of population are vegans) so you have to come .

        Liked by 1 person

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