Your Habit Culture: Choose Wisely

Your Habit Culture: Choose Wisely

Most of us like to imagine ourselves independent minded, unfettered by people’s expectations and evaluations. Of course, most of us like to imagine ourselves independently wealthy and unbound by the realities of limited income, too. In reality, both live only in our imaginations. We are not independently wealthy and we are not independent minded; we imitate what we see.
We see it clearly in children, the mini-mimics in our lives mirroring what they see and hear daily. It continues into adulthood. When you’re invited to a dinner party or a formal reception or an important company event, what do you typically ask? “What should I wear?” Why do you ask that? Because you don’t want to look silly. You, like the rest of us, want to be seen on the bell curve of normal. 
We are mimics.
That “bell curve of normal” exercises great power over us and is one that we must be acutely aware of and choose carefully for our lives because we are mimics. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes Remarkable Results, rightly observes:
We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them. We follow the script handed down by our friends and family, our church or school, our local community and society at large. Each of these cultures and groups comes with its own set of expectations and standards – when and whether to get married, how many children to have, which holidays to celebrate, how much money to spend on your child’s birthday party. In many ways, these social norms are the invisible rules that guide your behavior each day (115).
The “script” handed down to you, that surrounds you every day, is your habit culture and it is hugely influential over you. None of us dare ignore it (not in our lives and not in our children’s lives). Mr. Clear writes, “Your culture sets your expectation for what is ‘normal’” (117). In other words, your habit culture sets the bell curve of normal, the bell curve in which you desperately want to remain. 
Your habit culture defines the bell curve of normal
Acknowledging the presence and power of your habit cultures has the potential to spark deep reflection and consideration. Is your habit culture positive? Is it healthy? Is it Godly? What do your habit cultures place within the bell curve of normal? What do your children’s habit cultures place in the bell curve?
Where does your habit culture place worship, generosity, and living the faith on the bell curve of normal? Where does your habit culture place identity, sexual ethics, and marriage on the bell curve of normal? Where does your habit culture place career, leisure, and personal responsibility? These aren’t rhetorical questions; they are ones that every confessing Christian – that you – should thoughtfully consider and answer. Your habit culture profoundly shapes you. You must, as much as lies within your power, choose it carefully.  
It’s true that some aspects of your surrounding culture(s) are beyond your control. You did not choose to be born in 21st century America where the objectifying of women, the normalizing of pornography, the lionizing of sexually deviant behaviors and creationally-divorced identities, and the glorifying of Godless critical race/gender ideologies are placed within the bell curve of normal. And you did not choose to be born into your particular family with their idiosyncrasies, eccentricities, and peculiar peccadillos.
But much, very much, still remains in your control. First, you get to evaluate your habit cultures. Does they align with what God has called good? If so, praise God and live joyfully within them. If not, what can you change, what can you limit, what counterbalance can you provide? 
Second, there are many, many habit cultures that you can choose or reject. You get to choose what media you consume (and these are very powerful habit cultures!). You get to choose what media devices are in your house and in your children’s hands (and these should be closely monitored!).[1] You get to choose how to structure your time and routines. You get to choose the conversations you have with your children. You get to choose many of the habit cultures in your life.
And that means you should choose carefully and wisely. It also means that you can successfully develop new and desired habits with the help of your chosen habit culture because habit cultures work both ways, establishing negative or positive standards for our lives. Mr. Clear writes,
One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day (117).
New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day
This insight needs to be appreciated and embraced. To develop new positive, healthy, and Godly habits, you need to see people living them. So, what habits would you like to develop? What areas need addressed in your life?
Do you want to become more physically active? Join a club or group focused on physical fitness or stat one. Do you want to grow in your knowledge of Scripture? Join a group studying Scripture or start one. Do you want to revere Jesus in word and deed? Make worship at Zion or Trinity an absolute priority. Be with a group dedicated to confessing Christ. Do you want to strengthen your marriage or family? Join a group dedicated to strong marriages and families or start one.
Intentionally choose the habit cultures that establish the bell curve of normal that aligns with what God has called good in Scripture. Place yourself in a group that encourages, extols, and strives for the good, the right, the beautiful, and the true. And then joyfully and intentionally live within that habit culture. Want to visit more on your habit cultures? Call/email/stop in! – Pastor Conner  

[1] For parents concerned about their children having unfettered access to the internet through their smart phones, consider utilizing smart phones specifically designed to protect kids from unwanted content. Check our Gabb and Pinwheel. As they put it: “no ads, no social media, no gaming, no entertainment, no Internet browser, no app store. There are also no workarounds.”


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