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Gentle Virtues


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12/01/2011 - Recently I discovered a habit of mine. It is to walk with my left thumb between two fmgers. I think I do this because it feels like I am holding my child's hand.

For several years, I have held hands with at least one of my children.

Now they are getting older, holding hands with them is less frequent and unconsciously I am replacing this habit with a new one.

All of us have habits. They show up at mealtime, bedtime and almost anytime. Habits illuminate our character. They emphasize if we are immaculate or messy, business-like or casual, personable or withdrawn. Our habits make us distinct.

The word habit comes from the Latin root word "habeo". It means "to have, to hold". It is something we have and something we hold onto. In the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster defines it as a "disposition", a "condition of the mind" acquired by "frequent repetition" .

What do you do repeatedly? Do you regularly trust or worry, work promptly or procrastinate, smile or frown, forgive or begrudge? Do you like the habits you have and hold?

When I was a little girl, I had a different habit with my left thumb. I sucked it. Faithfully my mom worked with me on breaking this habit. She'd tell me over and over again, "If you want to be a big girl, you must stop sucking your thumb." It was painfully hard to quit but with her constant support and encouragement, I did.

A habit can become an addiction. This happens when we no longer have a hold of it but it has a hold on us. It becomes a stronghold. Too big to handle on our own, we need help from someone we can trust so we can break free.

The word addiction has an interesting root word. It comes from the Latin word "addico" which literally means "to devote". When we are devoted to something, we are attached to it. It receives our constant attention, whether we want it to or not.

Friend, as you give thought to your distinct habits, go ahead and snicker. Some of them may be comical. Also, be honest with yourself. See if any of them are holding you hostage. Keep in mind that our habits create our HABITation, where our minds dwell. We don't need to be held prisoner there. We can be free - free to live without shame, free to live at peace with ourselves and others and free to take hold of what is worth our devotion.

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