Question: Do we develop character by working to eliminate bad habits, or is it only by creating good habits in the first place that character is built?
Answer: Here is a short poem: “Thoughts turn to acts and habits are born; from habits the shape of character is formed.” We drop self-defeating behavior by coming awake to the fact that each negative act to which we give our life is first a bit of life stolen from us. It is not well understood, but before it is possible to defeat ourselves, we are in unconscious relationship with a defeated nature that is not our own. By working to be awake to ourselves in the moment, our awareness of these destructive energies permits us to actually experience their dark nature before that nature has a chance to deceive us. And how does it deceive us? With its promise of relief from the very pain its presence within us has produced! Once you can see this truth, you will also see that all self-defeating acts are the effects of our unawareness. Awareness ends this downhill relationship and sets us upon the Upper Path where our developing True Character ensures that our dark days are put behind us.
Here is something that the world around us, as well as most of the parts within us have no interest in hearing: just because we are able to buy something — go somewhere, or do whatever is our pleasure — as, and when we feel like it — doesn’t mean that we should.
Perhaps you may ask, “But why not pursue what is in my power to give to myself? After all, what better thing can I do with my time on this earth than to do whatever I can to please myself?”
And the answer is: learn (how) to use your time to “buy” what is Timeless, because regardless how seemingly real or refined some pleasure or possession may feel to the self that covets it . . . there is nothing timeless about it . . . or the world of time in which both it — and we — appear only to pass.
With one hand He gives, with the other He takes
Filling and emptying the soul,
Carving out receptivity to His Name
With each deft blow of His soul-sculpturing hands.
I am never full, nor ever bereft; neither am I,
But all is He.
I am His form. No other form have I
And it is to the shelter of His Name He guides me
Regardless of how He shapes me.
God wants me to want only Him;
To have no place to rest outside of His Heart,
To hold nothing in mind without the thought of Him.
To this He surely bends my will to His own,
Silently, so that no one,
Not even I see His hands hard at work.
But I cry out nevertheless,
Let it be done!