June 10, 2019
Weekly Reflection – Holy Habits
Most of us are not aware of the habits driving our lives. What are your holy habits?
Here is one definition of a “habit”:
A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. The American Journal of Psychology defines a “habit, from the standpoint of psychology, [as] a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience. (Wikipedia)
It seems to me that there is also a linkage with other aspects of behavior. For example, a habit can become a compulsion which can morph into an addiction. Not good! On the other hand, I have been thinking of what I call “holy habits.” These are positive routines that also tend to occur subconsciously. I know one lady whose habitual response to negative events is, “I am so thankful that…!” On the negative side, we might be habituated to exclaim a profane expletive or two when something goes wrong. This would be an “unholy habit.”Others might include habitually eating much more than we should or allowing our eyes to gravitate to unholy objects.
So how are we to be as Christians? Peter writes, “Be holy because I am holy.”(I Peter1:16). Paul admonishes the Romans to, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1) In other words, practice “holy habits!” That is easier said than done, as Paul writes about in Romans 7. He writes something to the effect that he wants to act one way but sees himself doing just the opposite. “What will save me from this?” he asks. “Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
May I offer one practice that may help erase bad habits and replace them with good ones? It is the practice of contemplation through what is called Centering Prayer. One writer calls this “Divine Therapy.” What is done, in addition to our normal ways of praying, is to practice two twenty minute periods of silence (without thinking or daydreaming) each day. That silence gives the Holy Spirit some time to speak in the space between our thoughts.
Over time it normalizes our subconscious minds, erasing the need for whatever our negative ways of behaving are. But you ask, “How can I remain silent for so long?” Good question! What we do is think up a “holy word” such as holy, Jesus, or love. Then. when we notice our minds wandering we just gently come back to repeating the “holy word.” Many people follow their twenty minute period of silence with a time of slowly reading a passage of scripture.
Centering Prayer is not a one-day fix. It will take many days or even years to become effective. In fact, none of us will ever be completely healed in this life. But we can make a great deal of progress and reap the positive benefits.
Be aware that neither holy habits nor unholy habits will be instilled or eliminated through Will-Power alone (see Colossians 2). Centering Prayer is one way to tackle the problem. Others include seeking out a friend with whom to confide, or even joining a support group. In some cases, professional counseling may be appropriate. And of course, there is always the need to stay away from matters that we know will tempt us to unholy behavior. We can also step into positive ways of seeing, hearing and experiencing that will serve to develop those “holy habits” we desire.
So, this week let us think a bit on what habits are driving our lives. And then proactively begin some practices to shift them from “unholy” to “holy.”
Blessings and peace,
Read more reflections on what habits are driving our lives, Tiny Habits