Easily the most saintly book I read this year besides the bible, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, explained to me in a concrete way how the prayers and rituals of the Church can become ingrained from repetition, to the point where relying and dwelling on God or a quick sign of the cross becomes instinct.
In the book, Duhigg explains the science of habits, particularly the fact that so many of our actions during the day are sub-conscious and automatic, when the right cue that triggers a certain routine and reward cycle is presented.
Basically, our lives are really made up of habits.
He even gives concrete examples like the marketing of “Pepsodent” and how Proctor & Gamble turned around “Febreze”. He further illustrated the role of cravings in re-enforcing the habit cycle and how habits played a role in social movements.
The power of this book, when you use the knowledge to dissect your habits and transform unwanted habits into more desired habits, is astounding. However, even without the scientific knowledge that resulted from the experiences in The Power of Habit, the Church, which I am more aware of as a member, and other religions I suppose, have used the mind-blowing power of “Keystone habits” and “willpower” to be saintly. After all, at least for the Church, it was from Jesus that they learnt their habits.
Yes, Jesus taught his disciplines to and how to pray, which is the keystone habit for our religion: “before any action, first surrender it over to God” and in terms of how, we have the “Our Father…”
But that only addresses the initial transformation of habits, how do we constantly get saints who are well saintly; who are so ready to give up their lives than cause harm, who profess the same faith and endure similar challenges: it is because no one understands free will and willpower quite like us Catholics. Again, Duhigg stresses two points on willpower:
- Willpower for the day is finite
- It is easier to resist (exercise willpower) after a pleasant experience
So when we surrender ourselves to God’s will and release ourselves from all worry, all decisions, all questions…our finite willpower becomes infinite. And, if you see a child of God dance, you will know that even if happiness is a temporary state, peace is a permanent one.
Nowadays, when I look upon the great wisdom God has bestowed upon his Church, even with my scientific eyes that search for truth, I am amazed by how infinite He is.
“I am that I am”, “I am the way, the truth and the life”
– God bless