This isn’t exactly a Lenten post, and we here at Two Heads have decided to keep the Midweek Meditation post as a regular Wednesday feature after Easter. Today I’d like to share a selection from a post by a friend of mine over at Letters From Heart’s Content on being transformed by the power of habit.
She begins with a quote that was unfamiliar to me, but I like it very much:
“I exhort you both so to esteem virtue (without which friendship cannot exist), that, excepting virtue, you will think nothing more excellent than friendship.” —Cicero, last sentence of “On Friendship”
I love the idea that true friendship can’t exist without ‘virtue’. If you define virtue simply as following the Golden Rule (since most every specific I could list would come under it)–then this sentence is a fundamental truth. How can I have a friend if I’m not willing to treat her the way I’d want her to treat me? So virtue precedes a real friendship, but real friends also encourage virtue in one another.
I can’t think of a better example just now than all the friends of mine who are earnestly praying and networking in order to finally cast the leading role in our theater company’s current production. They are truly helping me bear my burden and making my success their own aim. I’m humbled by such generosity and kindness.
My friend at Heart’s Content goes on (the emphasis is mine):
When I read this passage this morning I thought of 2 Peter 1:4-8, where he says
- “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
Faith acts by putting into practice what it believes, and it is the behavior of our lives, not the mental assent to values, that defines our virtue.
I read this too, by Pascal:
- “We must resort to habit once the mind has seen where the truth lies, in order to steep and stain ourselves in that belief…, for it is too much trouble to have the proofs always present before us.”
Once we know the truth we live it out and don’t need to continually go back to the source to be convinced. It becomes the fabric of our lives.
I’ve talked here before about habits. As Christians, whose goal is to be like Christ, we get closer to that mark when we are no longer constantly having to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” but rather do the right thing automatically. Of course, a lack of periodic self-examination could just as easily lead one to thoughtlessly doing the wrong thing.
But that’s where friends come in. If I have true friends, they have the right to challenge me when they see me going astray. I should probably give them that explicit permission. Thus I can continue to “think more highly of others than I do myself” and–assuming that they are, too–they will let me know if my habit of virtue falters.
And the world will say of such believing friends, “See how they love one another.”
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35, The Message)