Excellence Is A Habit

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” We are creatures of habit. Habits—overeating, thumb sucking, breath holding, nail biting, smoking, and the like—run the gambit from unpleasant to unhealthy. Other habits, like reading, healthy eating, exercise, money management, and getting adequate rest, greatly improve our quality of life. Yet our lives are all composed of habits from the time we wake up all the way up to bedtime. If a habit is negative, a cycle that includes triggers, feelings, and impulses can be broken anywhere along the way.  If the habit is positive and needed, we can nurture that cycle by continuing it.

Think about certain spiritual matters that are matters of habit – faithful attendance, daily Bible study and prayer, pure speech, visitation, welcoming visitors at church services, involvement in church works controlling the tongue, and any number of personal growth matters. Aristotle was right. Excellence does not consist in doing something once. It is not even found in the sporadic occasional engagement. We cultivate excellence by focusing on certain areas with repeated, persistent effort.

Paul urged the church at Thessalonica to “abound more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). That consisted in knowing how “to walk and to please God.” Peter told the Christians dispersed abroad to keep their “behavior seemly among the Gentiles” (1 Peter 2:12). In the second letter, he includes excellence – virtue – as a Christian grace (2 Peter 1:5). Excellence is not something we are born with or just wake up possessing. It is, as Aristotle says, a matter of our habits!

—Neal Pollard Glad Tidings of Good Things, Vol. 14, Mar. 20, 2008, page 1

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