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The Force of Habit

Habits are great helps, or great hindrances.
Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit reap at character; sow a character, reap a destiny.
—Samuel Smiles

I suppose it is common to human nature to think of great deeds and great achievements when dealing with the Higher Life and its manifestation in daily life and conduct; and to overlook the small things, the apparent trifles, as of no consequence—not worth a thought. And yet it is these very little things, the small acts, the passing thoughts, the acquired habits, that go to make up the sum total of what we are and what we shall become. Let us then consider some of the habits which we may unhappily fall into, habits so common, alas! and often so unconsciously taken up, that before we know it, they are like iron bands around us from which it is difficult to break away. We will first take the habit of Fault finding. The fault-finder is never happy. A thousand ills are ever ready to shape themselves around him. I know of no destroyer of domestic happiness like this one. Always something wrong in somebody. This not right, and that not right. Begin the morning by finding fault with a member of the household, and let the sun shine never so brightly, you have created a cloud that will hang about the house all day. What a destroyer of friendship too is this vice of fault-Ending! To find fault with ones friends and acquaintances is the swiftest and surest way to slay all feelings of love and sympathy. Let us—if we have given way to it in the slightest degree, slay this enemy of our happiness and peace at once.

Let us cultivate the habit of looking for the best in everybody. When tempted to find fault with anyone, immediately think of something to praise in that one, some goodness, some beauty, some virtue, and "think on these things." There will then be sweetness instead of bitterness, sunshine instead of shadow.

Then there is the habit of Discontent, or complaining. How often we hear people giving way to this habit. And how many faces in our streets are stamped with the hallmark of a discontented, complaining spirit. Friends, depend upon it, we cannot alter our circumstances, nor remove those things under which we chafe, in this way. On the contrary, every time we foster the discontent within our hearts, by brooding over it, and feed the complaining spirit by giving way to it, we bind ourselves closer and closer to the very thing from which we desire to free ourselves. Not only so, but it blinds our eyes to the blessings and privileges we do possess. While dwelling so much upon the evil, we lose sight of the good. Let me try to show you a better Way. Cease complaining; and get rid of the discontent within your hearts. Say—"I am here because my soul needs some lesson these circumstances have to teach me." Find out what it is—learn it—and all that is undesirable shall pass out of your life, and you will find that happiness and peace your soul longs for. Your eyes will be opened to blessings you now possess of which you did not dream, when you were blinded by your discontent and complainings. Said Jeremy Bentham—"Stretching his hands out to catch the stars, man forgets the flowers at his feet."

Shall l mention also that commonest of all bad habits, viz: The Worry habit? And of all the negative habits this one is perhaps the most negative. Shakespeare calls it "An enemy to life." Ralph Waldo Trine says—"Worry pulls down the organism, and finally tears it to pieces; nothing is to be gained by it, everything is to be lost." We would never give way to this habit if we would stop to think, and reason with ourselves thus—Will this worry make me in a more ht state to meet my difficulties? Will it add to my strength and happiness? Will it remove my perplexity? To every such question we have to answer NO. Then why worry? Lubert very humorously remarks, "Hundreds of advertisements nowadays promise a cure for wrinkles, so that wrinkles must be pretty general. There is only one cure for them, and l give it to you with my love: don't worry!" So much for some of the habits we must seek to avoid. Now for some habits we should seek to cultivate. Let us begin with a Kind and Charitable Spirit. Here we have the very antithesis of fault-finding, or complaining of others. We cannot be too kind. The world needs all we can give of real, genuine, heart kindness. If we only understood the longings of human hearts, how often they are filled with loneliness and sorrow; the yearning to do right; the secret grief that fills the heart over, may be, the very failing we have condemned; we would be kinder often. Let us seek every opportunity we can of being kind; let us—when others condemn—speak the word of sweet charity, for—

Loving words will cost but little
Journeying up the hill of life,
But they make the sad and weary
Stronger, braver for the strife.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.
—Matthew 25:40

The habit of Gentleness is one of the most beautiful of all the virtues. One of the most beautiful and touching names given to the Savior is "Gentle Jesus." It was by this name we were first—as little children—taught to know Him. To be gentle in voice and manner we must first be gentle in heart and spirit. Let us cultivate by all means the spirit of gentleness. Said Lao-Tze, "Therefore when heaven would save a man, it enfolds him with gentleness." And David said—"Thy gentleness hath made me great."

I will finish with the habit of Cheerfulness, or brightness. How uplifting is the sound of a cheery voice, it is like music in our ears. Many a time the day has seemed brighter after the cheery "Good morning," spoken out from a heart full of cheerfulness and gladness; and we all know the depressing effect of a sad and gloomy countenance. Oh the sad drawn faces we meet daily! Faces that might have been beautiful—as all faces should be—but they have so long looked on the dark side of life, have spent so much time counting the clouds, they seem to have quite forgotten the sunshine. "Keep bright!" is a splendid motto. We can always do with a cheerful countenance—a bright face carries gladness and sunshine wherever it goes—and "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine."

The happiness of life depends less upon what befalls us than upon the way in which we take it.
—Lavater
Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.
—Marcus Aurelius
It is a well known and universally-accepted principle that the soul gives to the body its form, and that the life writes its whole history in the features of the face.
—J. R. Miller, D. D.
Kindness wreaths the face with gentleness, Holy thoughts refine the countenance.
Grand purposes, noble resolves, high aspirations, clothe the form and features with dignity and power.
Sincerity and truth transfigure even the homeliest looks.
—J. R. Miller, D. D.

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Lily L. Allen

  • Born on December 30th, 1867 at Burrishoole, Eire
  • Wife of author James Allen
  • Wrote many books of her own
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