SELF DISCIPLINE AND KEEPING CUSTODY OF OUR SPIRIT

Self-discipline is the means by which we are able to safeguard our souls from things that would be harmful to us. Keeping “Custody of our Spirit” enables us to be responsible guardians and keepers of that soul. Custody of our Spirit means avoiding not just the vice itself, but those well-known traps that would cause us to fall into vice. We all know people who have addictive personalities both young and old. For some its cookies, for others it might be drugs and alcohol, but in one way or another we are all tempted and we all need to take “Custody of our Spirit”. Custody of our Spirit means that we are not fixed upon the things of the world, on conforming to its vicious ways, but upon Virtue and the path to living a good life. Here are a few less obvious ways that vice threatens our ability to maintain good “Custody of our Spirits”:

Lust

You can’t surf the internet, walk through an airport, or simply buy groceries without being assaulted by the vice of lust. It has become socially acceptable, and at younger and younger ages, to sexualize and objectify the body. Men, more than women, are susceptible to this because there is a stronger chemical response in men and it starts with the eyes. It is a terrible vice, for it pulls not only the eyes, but one’s very body into its path. How, in our pornographic culture, can a man keep from falling into the sin of adultery with his eyes? The answer is very simple. Stop looking. Turn the other way. Even giving undue attention to immodest dress or a sexualized appearance is a snare; it is the slippery slope that leads to wanting more and more. Avert your eyes from a comely woman; gaze not upon the beauty of another’s wife——through woman’s beauty many perish, for lust it burns like fire. (Sirach 9:8) Keeping good Custody of our Spirit means not letting your eyes wander around the room, not undressing women with our eyes, perusing lewd magazines, internet pictures, and even steering away from shows or channels on which you know you will find indecent images. For some men it means a complete transformation of the mind as to how women are perceived and even how we perceive ourselves.

Materialism

We lose custody of our Spirit by always shopping around for something better, for the next best thing. In America the vice of materialism—the enticement of new things—has reached monstrous proportions, and few are resisting it. Ipads, iPods, iBooks, iPhones,…. Even the names of these gadgets reveal something of the potential danger that lurks behind the uncontrolled need for personal comfort, convenience and self-pleasure. It is all about “I”, not “We”, or ”Us”. The exportation of manufacturing to third world countries has created a “chum” of low cost goods that stimulates the consumer feeding frenzy that happens in our malls every weekend. And if you don’t want to make the trip to the mall, just log onto the internet where you will find all the high def color, news, photos, videos, goods and services you would ever want, all at the click of a button. Keeping custody of our Spirit means acquiring, for the most part, what we need rather than what we want, not hoarding but sharing with others, especially the less fortunate.

Pride

The temptation of pride isn’t about just wanting to be rich or famous. Today, it has taken on a more cunning temptation, once again, through technology. “Social networking”, while often serving to connect old friends and family, also feeds into a new individualism. With Face Book and Twitter, the trend is to put your every thought and action out there for the world to see, fostering a growing trend of narcissism (self-absorption). Saying (or typing) this or that in hopes of making ourselves appear more important than we are, or to please others, gaining their approval. Do you really think that anyone cares whether or not you just put in a load of wash? When it comes to social networking, we need to maintain custody of our spirit. Is it humble to paste pictures of myself that stroke my vanity? When I “tweet” others, am I saying something that is necessary or not? Am I encouraging gossip or just wasting other peoples time?

It is self discipline and keeping custody of our spirit that allows us to walk among vicious people, but keep our hearts unstained by continually seeking what is good. We can walk in the truth that women are not objects, but reflections of our own humanity; in the truth that material things are to be used for our own good and the good of others; and by being small, humble, and hidden, meek and gentle of heart, we can shun worldly vice and live a virtuous life.