10 Character Building And The Overcoming Of Habit
Character building is the greatest object in life. It has been said that character is the only thing we can take with us when we depart this life. This is perfectly true, therefore the object of all religion (not religiousness), mental training and development should be the building of character. A religion that does not build up character is worthless. Those who think that they can "flop" through life, avoid, as far as possible, its discipline, make no effort to improve their character, and through believing in a certain creed can miraculously become perfect, simply by dying, are deceiving themselves. We do not become "perfect," _i.e._, of a strong and perfect character, either by believing in a creed or through dying, but by attainment. God helps those who help themselves, and those people who will not strive after better things cut themselves off from all the glorious and wonderful possibilities of attainment.
Before, however, thinking about such lofty things as entering the Path of Attainment, and becoming changed into, and modelled after the Divine Image, the average person may wish to know how to overcome bad habits and weaknesses of character which are keeping him down in life, and, possibly, undermining his health. Most people are conscious of some wrong habits that ought to be overcome, and weaknesses of character which should be eradicated. Possibly they have fought against their habits or weaknesses for years, prayed until they are tired of praying, made innumerable attempts at turning over a new leaf, yet all in vain, for they are as firmly in the toils as ever. Many people give up the struggle and endeavour to lead a sort of Jekyll and Hyde existence, being outwardly a Christian or righteous person, but inwardly something quite different. Yet they find no satisfaction in this dual life, for they know that they are drifting towards an abyss.
Yet there is a way of escape that is open to all. The Infinite One has provided man with powers that are apparently unlimited: powers which can be used either to build up the life and character or to destroy them. These powers are those of the sub-conscious mind. This mind is a reservoir of unlimited, tireless forces, and becomes, if we use it aright, our best friend, or, if we mis-use it, our worst enemy.
Every time a bad action is indulged in, wonderful changes take place in the nervous system, and energy becomes stored up in certain cells, so as to make it easier to do the wrong act on a future occasion. It is equally true that every time a good action is done, similar changes, but in a reverse direction, take place, that make the doing of the same action easier in the future. This explains the tremendous power of habit. Our body, brain and nervous system become changed, either for the worse or the better, according to the type of action indulged in.
We do not yet fully realize what a wonderful adventure life is. We are entrusted with tremendous powers, and by their use or mis-use we can either destroy ourselves or build up our character in every possible direction. What a responsibility, yet what a glorious opportunity!
In order, however, to find a way of escape from evil habit and weaknesses of character, we must go deeper than actual deeds, for actions are effects of hidden causes. The cause of all action is thought. A thought, someone has said, is an action in the process of being born. It is true that we possess primitive desires and impulses, but these can be transmuted into noble actions and high achievement simply by directing the thoughts and attention to higher and better things. For instance, the powers of sex become transmuted into brain power if the thoughts and attention are completely transferred from sex to intellectual pursuits. If, however, the thoughts are allowed to dwell upon sex or passion, then the kingdom becomes divided against itself, and man begins to drift towards the abyss. The strain of modern life is filling our asylums, yet there are those who can work fifteen or even eighteen hours a day and thrive on it, although engaged in severely-trying brain work. These have learnt to transmute their lower powers into higher. This is not done by means of esoteric or occult practices, but by obeying the Divine Injunction to set our affections on things above. In other words, to keep our thoughts and attention fixed upon higher and better aims, ambitions and pursuits.
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