There are holy habits and there are unholy habits. How do we tell the difference? Usually it’s pretty obvious, but sometimes there may be uncertainty. How can we tell if a particular habit is good or bad.
In Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, James Clear proposes a question to help us classify our habits.
“Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” Habits that reinforce your desired identity are usually good. Habits that conflict with your desired identity are usually bad.” (65)
From a secular perspective, this is helpful advice. Obviously there’s going to be discord and dissonance if a person’s habits conflict with their actual or desired identity.
From a Christian perspective also, it’s helpful to ask whether our habits conflict with our Christian identity. Do they cast a vote for or against our identity? Do we turn from those that don’t and to those which do?
But, as Christians, we also want to insist that both our identity and our habits are defined by a source external to ourselves. We don’t just make up our identity and then choose habits which work with rather than against that. And we don’t just decide what habits we want and then form an identity from them.
Rather, for the Christian, the Bible is the ultimate source of both our identity and the decision about what is a good or bad habit. And we can be sure that whatever habits God commends in his Word will be consistent and harmonious with our God-given identity. This removes a lot of the guess work and also builds a clear and strong identity. We can say:
God gives the Christian a clear identity in Christ and clear guidance on what is good and bad. When this identity is embraced and this guidance is followed, they will not only multiply each other, but will produce unparalleled inner coherence, harmony, security, and peace.