The Difference Between Discipline and Devotion

Years ago, I watched a television interview with the late, legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti. The interviewer asked him about the discipline involved in being a great opera singer. Was it overwhelming? Too much for mere mortals? He paused and thought for a very long moment (probably gathering his English in the same way I often must assemble my Italian.)

Then he said, “There is a difference between discipline and devotion.” What he said after that, I don’t recall. However, I instantly understood the emotional component that may be present in discipline, but must be omnipresent in devotion.

And I take comfort in that fine distinction: my discipline falls short on a regular basis. Writing deadlines fall lifeless on the calendar and must be resuscitated, propped up, and marched forward, stumbling to some future date. Exercise regimens come and go, with only some basic yoga and long, daily walks falling into the ‘consistent’ category. I’m certain I made some new year’s resolutions, but, at this point in time, I don’t remember what they were.

Still, I remain devoted: to my wife, to my writing, to a few friends and a few ideals, and to a Higher One who men call by many different names. That devotion pulls me forward, sometimes reluctantly, but inevitably, to accomplish some goals, to honor commitments as best I can, and to remember to laugh.

It’s an uneven and discouraging process at times, with results both infrequent and difficult to quantify. But I carry on, with less discipline than devotion, confident that, at some point in time, it will all be worthwhile.

  • BGT


8 thoughts on “The Difference Between Discipline and Devotion

  1. Sometimes I just don’t even have the words to respond to your posts. They’re so succinct, and they leave me pausing and wondering about what you’ve written….all good thoughts to be sure. To add something would be superfluous. Signs of an outstanding writer, Byron. But, I like to think that you might like to hear from your readers now and then, so this is it! I am “devoted” to your blog! 🙂

  2. A valuable distinction to be conscience of, and I enjoyed the poetic hue of this post as well! Thanks Byron. As I was reading the part where you listed the things you are devoted to, it brought up a thought in my mind of how it’s important to apply our capacities for devotion to only those things either most worthy of our devotion or else most in line with our aptitudes, that they (our devotions) might bear the most fruit for ourselves and for others.

    1. An excellent comment, Alex. Only the things ‘most worthy’ of our aspirations and ‘most in line’ with our abilities. I love your addition to the concept. Thank you. – BGT

  3. Discipline is subject to our mood, attitude, wellness and sometimes downright laziness. Discipline is variable, but devotion is fixed. You are not more or less devoted today than yesterday or tomorrow. My devotion to the Lord, my family and my values are strong even when I am weak. Let us all live a life of devotion and not beat ourselves up when discipline walks out the door like the transient deadbeat he can sometimes seem to be.

  4. What a Godsend! I’ve been beating myself up for being sporadically disciplined (lazy) feeling that that’s a sure sign of lack of character. Thanks for reminding us that devotion is so much more important and constant. The wisdom to see the difference, wow. *curtsy*

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