Gentle Discipline

From Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata:

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”

This is an interesting sentence as it juxtaposes two competing thoughts – “discipline” and “gentle.”  Note I said “competing” and not contradictory.  In this I am reminded of Dan Fogelberg’s description of his father in Leader of the Band:

“He earned his love through discipline, a thundering velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand”

What a phrase – a “gentle means of sculpting souls.”  That is, I think, Ehrmann’s point – you can and should push yourself (who wants to get up every morning and go to work?), but don’t beat yourself (hitting the snooze button is not a punishable offense).  Be gentle with your soul, and those of others.

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