the weblog of Alan Knox

Comfortable habits

Posted by on Feb 9, 2010 in blog links, discipleship | Comments Off

I wish I could play guitar. I really do. I even own a very nice Fender Stratocaster. But, I never took the time to learn to play, and much of what I did learn on my own, I learned incorrectly and developed bad habits.

In a post called “Don’t be an Emotional Cop-Out“, Laura from “Who in the World Are We?” discusses guitar playing and bad habits (from the perspective of emotions):

I am a guitar player. I started playing way back in 1974, when I took a summer class at Carnegie Junior High. Two of my earliest tunes were Tom Dooley and Jet Plane. Since those early days, I have played hours upon hours, days upon days. I have trained my body and mind to play guitar. Most of the time when I play now, I don’t really think about it. I look at the chord sheet or hear the song in my head and I play. Years of practice translate across fingers and hands into vibrating strings.

After years of playing guitar, I have developed habits. Some of the habits—maybe most—are good. My left hand knows great many of the required chord shapes: the mind thinks a letter, say G, and the hand makes the shape. My right arm knows rhythms and my ears know how to sync my arm with the drums and bass.

Unfortunately, some of the habits are not good. For example, any player who knows proper form will look at my left thumb wrapped around the neck and clack their tongue: my form is usually terrible. My barre chords either depress the bottom strings or the top strings: never both. To change these habits would require new learning—probably to the point of discomfort, if not pain. At the very least, it would require hard work and time.

I could say, “It’s just how I play,” but the truth is, I developed these habits of guitar playing. I am responsible for the good and for the bad.

In an unrelated post (but related context), Art (from “Church Task Force“) added the following comment to my post called “It is dangerous to ask Why?“:

Even when leaders and Christians come to realize some of the why’s you list as being wrong, and realize what the scriptures actually direct us to do/be, doing so would be very costly. We are comfortable in familiar patterns. We may have much invested – power, position, authority – based the faulty practices and forms, and are not willing to lose them.

Think about the two statement above. Many of the things that we do (or believe) are the result of habit. We have been taught something, we’ve seen it modeled, and we’ve done it enough that it’s now habit.

Some of these habits are good. Some of these habits are bad. But, all of our habits are “comfortable” in the sense that we know what to do and how to do it. We’ve done it. We’ve believed it. It might even “work.”

In the context of guitar playing, very little is riding on our habits. We may not play as well as we could because of the bad habits we’ve developed. But, for the most part, playing guitar with bad habits is relatively low on the priority for most people.

But, what about the way we understand who God is? What about what we think about Scripture? What about the way we understand ourselves and others in relationship to God? What about the way we understand church? What about our understanding our our purpose on earth?

For me, these are very important concepts. In fact, these are “concepts” that must go beyond the conceptual stage. The “concepts” are primarily found in our demonstration not our articulation.

Many of us grew up with a foundation of concepts and living our lives in a certain way. We’re comfortable. And, when something or someone comes along to question our ideals, we fight against it… sometimes without considering other options, and sometimes even when we realize that our understanding is wrong.

Why would we fight against something that might be right? Because we’re comfortable… and anytime we move away from comfort there is pain… hard work… and time.