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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Habits

I remember once in a Seminary class asking the question, “If the sacrament is a renewal of baptismal covenants, then why do we give the sacrament to children who are younger than eight years old?” The answer that I got was one that stuck with me even until this day, to get into the habit of taking the sacrament. Habits, huh, is that all taking the sacrament is ... a habit. As I wrote out a tithing check the other day, I questioned this idea. Not to wear my religion on my coat sleeves, but every time I get paidI write out a check. Is this nothing more than a habit? What about temple attendance or other routine things in the church. Ward temple night...make it a “habit” of attending. It is said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Overall the habits that the church try to promote in us are good, but I want more out of a religion than just breeding good habits.

Does anybody else feel this way? How do we go about breaking out of the habit or guilt-trip mode to the next level? What is the next level? Is it seeing visions and having visitations from angles? Or is it just doing the right things for the right reasons?

4 comments:

Robby C said...

Interesting post Dallas. I had to think about it for a bit. Initially I looked up the word habit to make sure it meant what I thought it did. I found several definitions, one that was almost exactly what the word habit meant to me. "An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary." The part that stood out to me was "involuntary".
I think that many habits are good. Particularly those that help us avoid sin. I'm using sin in a very broad sense here and referring to sins of commission and omission. It's the involuntary aspect that I would like to focus on for a minute. I think that eventually if we make avoiding sin a habit, it will become an involuntary action. Temptation won't even be an issue. Temptation only comes when we are conscious of another option. Now having said that, I have to point out that I do not believe that being perfect means being sinless. Conversely, being sinless does not necessarily mean being perfect. This is where I think we start moving to the next level. Here's what I think the next level is. It's all about others. See, habits are all about us. But when your dealing with others, involuntary just doesn't work. You have to be conscious of what you are doing. You have to make judgments and hence BECOME more like God. Habits, because they become involuntary, don't necessarily help us become Gods. They just lay the foundation for us to start becoming. And becoming is all about other people. That's what God does...worry about other people. Let me try to illustrate the next level with the tithing example. Paying tithing is the first level. It becomes a habit; we do it almost without thinking. It helps us avoid the sin of not paying our tithing. It's pretty cut and dried. 10% no questions asked. But I think the next level is fast offerings. Now here is something that isn't a "commandment". There is not a certain percentage to pay. It's all about others. We pay it to directly help others, and now we have to make a judgment. How much can I give? If we have let fast offerings become a habit and give the same amount every month, we've fallen back down a level. But if we sacrifice and give generously so others can have, this is not an involuntary thing. It's something we have to think about and make a judgment, and we become more like God. We have given grace, just as God gives his children. That's how we become like God. That's how we become Gods. Grace for Grace. Habits are about us, Becoming is about others. I think that's the next level.

Dallas said...

Thanks, Robby. Your comment helped me start. Especially the part, "Habits are about us, Becoming is about others." I think it is easy to "sacrifice and give generously so others can have" when we love the people that we are sacrificing for. The hard part for me is learning to love everyone.

Robby C said...

As I was posting a comment on the "What is Love" post I thought about Dallas's last comment on this post.
"I think it is easy to 'sacrifice and give generously so others can have' when we love the people that we are sacrificing for. The hard part for me is learning to love everyone."
I would agree with you whole-heartedly.
I don't know if this will work or not. It just came to me while I was typing my other comment, but see what you think. If we sacrifice and give generously so others can have, when we don't feel much love for them, would their love increase for us? I honestly don't know the answer to this. Part of me wants to say that if our giving is not motivated by love then it will not illicit a response of love from the recipient. There is another part of me that doesn't necessarily agree with this. This part of my theory definitely is open for discussion. But let’s assume that the recipient feels something by receiving a "blessing" from us and interprets this feeling as love. I can only assume then, that their love for us would increase. As their love for us increases, eventually it will get to a point where they will begin to sacrifice for us, and this sacrifice will be motivated by love. If this happens I can only assume that our love for them would increase. I would then assume that we would continue to sacrifice for them, now out of genuine love, and it would result in an upward spiral where our love for each other would continue to increase. I think this is how our love for God, and Gods love for us, works. We give to him, he gives to us, and the love on both sides continues to increase until it is so strong that we can't be kept apart. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." John 14:21

eleven said...

Robby, i believe that you are on the rigth track with all of your comments. I am reminded of the scripture in Matthew 6, and the almost indentical scripture is found in Chapter 13 of the 3rd book of Nephi. The lord in Matthew is asking in his loving way to give alms to the poor, and when you give alms to the poor your father in Heaven will reward you openly. In Nephi the Lord does not espress this as a gentle "if you would like to" phrase, He states expressly that we should, a commandment, to give to the poor. Why? I feel in the comments that Dallas and Robby posted it is to first express a love for the Lord by performing a habit to serve him, for when a habit is formed it is not easily broken. Then it becomes a love for the one you give the alms to. "For if you love me keep my commandments", and "the second great commandment is to love thy neighbor", which is like unto the first of "love the Lord thy God" I feel that this is the process of becoming, and I feel that it has to take the place of forming good habits first. Then it will transform itself into Love. And as the Apostole Paul said "Love is the greatest of all". So yes, a habit is as stated, an involuntary act, but where else is someone going to find the foundational materials to build a sure foundation with. If we stop there then what do we have a nice concrete slab with no structure, no ceiling, no walls and especially no mansion in the kingdom of our Father. But if we do have a foundation built upon habits then we can always ask for the help from the "Carpenter from Galilee" to help us build our mansion.