On Instant Gratification, Perpetual Adolescence and Self-Discipline

“He who gives license to his tongue only discloses the contents of his own mind. By the excess of his words he proclaims his lack of discipline. By his very violence he shows his weakness. The youth or man who by disregarding this principle thinks he is displaying his determination and resolution and emphasizing his statements is in reality only revealing an intellectual poverty, a deficiency in self-control and self-respect, a want of accurate thinking and of spiritual insight, which cannot come save for a reverence for the truth…

     “We live in an impatient age. We demand results, and demand them at once. We find a long and laborious process very irksome, and are constantly seeking for a short cut. But there is no easy method of securing discipline. It is axiomatic that there is no royal road to learning. The effort for discipline must be intensive, and to a considerable degree it must be lifelong. But it is absolutely necessary, if there is to be any self-direction or any self-control. The worst evil that could be inflicted upon the youth of the land would be to leave them without restraint and completely at the mercy of their own uncontrolled inclinations. Under such conditions education would be impossible, and all orderly development intellectually or morally would be hopeless. I do not need to picture the result., We know too well what weakness and depravity follow when the ordinary processes of discipline are neglected.

     “Yet the world has never thoroughly learned this lesson…One of the greatest needs of the present day is the establishment and recognition of standards, and holding ourselves up to their proper observance. This cannot be done without constant effort and it will meet constant opposition…

     “I believe such a position arises from a misconception of the meaning of life. They seem to think that authority means some kind of an attempt to force action upon them which is not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others. To me they do not appear to understand the nature of law, and therefore refuse obedience. They misinterpret the meaning of individual liberty, and therefore fail to attain it. They do not recognize the right of property, and therefore do not come into its possession. They rebel at the idea of service, and therefore lack the fellowship and cooperation of others. Our conception of authority, of law and liberty, of property and service, ought not to be that they imply rules of action for the mere benefit of someone else, but that they are primarily for the benefit of ourselves” — Calvin Coolidge, September 21, 1924


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