Discipline consists of more than punishment, at the hand of authority, for wrongdoing. It includes self-discipline; the regulation by a man of his own heart and mind, the cultivation of discernment, virtue and noble tastes and sentiments and the suppression of unbalanced passions, vice and mean dispositions. Discipline therefore, is a way of life.
The undisciplined man is a slave to passion, luxury and sloth. He entertains dreams on a large scale but the reality of his existence is sordid. On the other hand, the disciplined man is a free man. His judgment is sound because he is trained and experienced in responsible judgment. His means are independent. His life is free of the debilitating influence of vice. He is able to discern between that which seems good and that which is good.
Although discipline does not consist merely of punishment, at the hand of authority, for wrongdoing, this external discipline is nevertheless very important, as an essential part in training the individual to be self-disciplined (by means of punishments, rewards and warnings). This is necessary and proper, both for the sake of the individual and society at large. This external discipline is necessary, for example, in schools, in order to induce the recalcitrant student to concentrate on his studies and observe proper behaviour as well as to protect the other students from a corrupting and disruptive influence. Punishment may, at times, seem harsh but it is justified by the miscreant's guilt. A failure by authority to impose discipline leads to the proliferation (under personal licence and peer pressure) of indiscipline and the influence of bullies. The decay of discipline in our society is reflected in the increasing numbers of people who resort to violence and crude behaviour when provoked.
Discipline is necessary for all achievement, especially great achievements. Without discipline there can be no scientific advances (eg no penicillin), no entrepreneurial, industrial or technological achievement (eg no mass-produced motor car), no settled system of law and order, no literary achievement, no exploration and development of a new land (eg Australia since 1770) and no proclamation of religious truth, because all of these matters require the careful, vigorous, sustained application of trained and balanced minds and bodies. Discipline goes hand in hand with hard work. Discipline makes it possible for a man to endure the rigour of hard work. Discipline directs work, making it fruitful and excellent. On the other hand, discipline is fruitless without work. Australia could not have been developed without either of these factors.