The Power of Habit

Preaching of St. John the Baptist by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449–1494
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6)

Man can get used to just about anything. He can be born on the coast and used to the ocean, or in the mountains and used to the heights. He might be raised in a house that keeps the thermostat at 60, or a house that keeps it at 75. He could grow up in poverty or riches, with love or abuse, in the city or the country. The only thing consistent is that man acclimates: he gets used to his surroundings.

And this is not limited to man’s surroundings, but extends to his actions as well. Man can get used to blowing his nose in a handkerchief or in a tissue. He can get used to cooking supper each evening or going out to eat regularly. He can get used to holding the door for the person behind him or letting it close in someone’s face. There are various aspects to leading one’s life: some have to do with mere preference, others have clear moral implications. Whatever the case, however, man can get used to doing just about anything.

This process of getting man used to something is called “habituating,” which comes from the Latin word habitus. A habitus refers to someone’s condition, state of being, even his quality, nature, or character. In short, it’s the way of life a person is used to, and—this is important—the way of life a person will naturally continue to lead. In that sense, a man’s habitus says something about who that man is. It should come as no surprise to hear that our word “habit” comes from this Latin word. A habit is simply what you do, not necessarily because it’s right or wrong, good or bad, but because you’re used to doing it.

It’s hard to change what you’re used to. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so formal a thing as New Year’s resolutions. Changing a habit or way of life is extremely difficult. Those who have succeeded at it have found it an uphill battle with many failed attempts coming before success. It wasn’t a chore to form the habit in the first place, but it’s a chore to change it.

And that says something very significant about education. If we lay the right foundation for our children, we won’t burden them with having to tear down poorly built houses later and start from scratch. It’s not hard to form a habit; it’s only hard to stop it and change it to another. When a right habit is formed from the first, then the staying power of habit can be a very good thing.

Thus says the Lord: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Establish your child in the Christian life. Bring him to church, that’s the most necessary thing. Read God’s Word to him in the home, that’s also necessary. Then place him amidst Christian culture in school; put him where he will form a habit that accords with the Word of God and a lifetime of faith and love.

Mount Hope provides a surrounding that habituates students toward loving what is true and noble. Our pastors faithfully preach the Word of God and get students used to receiving God’s Word daily. Our teachers are committed to instilling virtuous habits of mind and body. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

In Christ,
Pastor Richard

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