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#79 Habits

Summary:

What can trees teach us about cutting our bad habits, and cultivating good ones? We're discussing an important lesson from Abba Dorotheos in this week's "Be the Bee!"

Questions:

1) How are some ways we can adapt good habits?

2) How can we get rid of the bad habits?

3) How can bad habits turn into worse habits?

Links:

Mystagogy, Abba Dorotheos

Ancient Faith Radio, "A Word from the Holy Fathers," Defeating the Slavery of "Bad Habits”

Mystagogy, Bad Habits Can Age You by 12 Years, Study Suggests

Script:

Hey everybody, this this Steve, and even the smallest choices can have big consequences. I'm in Central Park, here in New York, taking a much needed break from noise and the craziness of the day. I really like being around trees, especially big trees like these. These tall, strong, old living things that have solidly stood here providing shade and beauty for decades. And some places for centuries. Today, all these trees make me think of habits. all the things I regularly do that are hard to give up. It's a topic that's been on my mind a lot recently. Especially since it's the beginning of the new Church year. We, especially me, tend to think about all the bad habits that we want to break, but it's also good to think about the good habits that we want to cultivate. And there's a little story from the life of Abba Dorotheos which helps me think about habits. And I'd like to share it with you. An elder was with his disciples in a grove of trees. Some big, some small. The elder told one of the young men, "Pull up that sapling over there." It was still very small, so the disciple easily uprooted it from the ground. The elder then showed the young man an even larger tree, and instructed him to pull that one out. Then a larger one, and even a larger one after that. The disciple began to struggle as the trees got bigger and bigger.

Straining to pull the deep roots out of the ground. Finally the elder showed him a tree that was so fully grown, that no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much effort he put into it, the young man just couldn't uproot it. The elder instructed a second disciple to help. But even the two of them together just couldn't uproot the great tree. Finally, the elder stopped them. And said to his disciple "So it is with our evil desire: Insofar as they are small to start with, we can, if we want to, cut them off with ease..if we neglect them as mere trifles they harden, and the more they harden, the more labor is needed to get rid of them... but if they grow to any degree of maturity inside us, we shall no longer be able to remove them from ourselves, no matter how we labor... unless we have the help of the saints interceding for us with God." Abba Dorotheos often taught his disciples how important it was to cut off unhealthy and destructive habits when they're still just small problems. 

Unfortunately, when our bad habits are still little habits, it's easy to think they're no big deal, and ignore them. Yet, as Abba Dorotheos would say, "It is one thing to uproot a blade of grass, and another to uproot a great tree." Our goal, as Christians should be to pluck these destructive habits as soon as possible while they're still just blades of grass, before they take root deep inside our hearts. Because if we postpone our repentance, or become careless and don't take the time to think about where we are and where we need to be, we'll be surprised to find that a great forest of sin has taken root within us. A forest that will stand, no matter how hard you push and pull and heave, no matter how much our muscles ache from the strain of trying to uproot those trees. But these don't simply represent our bad habits, they can represent our good habits, a forest of virtue in our hearts. Tended by prayer and fasting and kindness and generosity that express our love for God and neighbor. It's not easy to love, to put others first, to serve and sacrifice. Our attempts at love are, at first, nothing more than blades of grass, easily plucked by the devil and his demons. Yet through the prayers of our holy fathers and mothers, of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and by the grace of God, our good habits will take root.

And God willing, when the devil comes to disturb us, he will find not a patch of grass, but rather a mighty forest, deeply rooted in the rich soil of God's grace. So, that's my prayer for all of you. That you may pluck out your bad habits early, and let your good habits grow strong. That your heart will be an unshakable forest of kindness, and goodness and patience and generosity and love, anchored by the deep roots of good habits. And I pray that one of those good habits will be to pray for me and for all of those who are working to cultivate a love for Christ. So, let's be the bee, and pluck out our bad habits while planting good habits instead. Be the Bee, and live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all next week.

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