Habit

by Peter

I have been prone to confuse the ideas of habit and enslavement.  My intuition has been that if there is a tendency that almost universally determines my action or type of action, then it has power over me and I am its slave.  This correlation made things messy when paired up with the whole freedom in Christ idea.  Does Christ free us from any and every obedience to habit?  I have never met a Christian with whom this is the case; indeed, he would be quite the specimen.

I have come rather to an understanding, just recently, that humans simply are habitual… they tend toward things naturally and consistently.  If humans are naturally habitual, then the supposition that God made them so can be safely assumed.  And if God made it so, then it is good for it to be so.  Hence began my search for the goodness of habit.

It’s a difficult thing to for me to do.  Habit seems to be the cause of a great deal of fear and hate, discrimination and willful ignorance.  It seems to lead to passivity, a vice which is too near to be treated flippantly.  Bad habits seem easier come by than good ones; they are at the very least more readily noticed.

I can see this good, however, and it may be great enough to outweigh all these negatives: that tendencies imply ends.  A being that is characterized by tending to things must naturally have ends or an end. This conclusion can be made regardless of the objects of any tendency.  In that something tends, it has an end, an object.  If something tends by its nature, then it naturally should be found to have an end or ends.  If this is so, then it seems that habit is a testimony to Purpose or Goal, and if purpose, then Designer.  This is not a necessary progression, but it is a satisfying and beautiful one, unlikely to persuade an antagonist, but full of comfort for a supporter.  Habit may be a constant testimony of God and His purposes.

But what of the question of slavery?  I think that I must say that habit is natural and good.  It is not imposed upon us, nor does it command us.  Rather, it ought more properly to be viewed as an internal governance, an innate ordering; habit is over us from within us.  We tend because it is human to tend, and in that it is absurd to say that we are enslaved by humanity, it is absurd to say that we are enslaved by habit.  A bad habit is merely a tendency that does not have its proper end.  A good habit is a tendency directed toward a good end.  Thus, slavery may be said to lie only in the badness of the objects of our habits, and not in the habits themselves.  Likewise, freedom may be said to lie in the goodness of the objects of our habits.  If this is sound, then slavery would be tending toward what is bad, while freedom would be tending toward What is Good.

How natural it is, then to speak of freedom in Christ!  How clear is slavery to sin.  Freedom and slavery have here seemed closer than I would normally think of them, differing only in their ends.  What remains to be said is how it is that ends are adopted, how changed, and what the nature of habits or tendencies are.  Yet these questions I will leave for another time, perhaps.  For now, I am content to think about these things and present them for refinement and critique.

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