We live in a world bombarding us with input and how often do we evaluate the input for its usefulness, accuracy, or impact on the output. Techies and some others of us are familiar with the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out.” It’s used to express the idea that in computing and other spheres, incorrect or poor- quality input will always produce faulty output. If you use computers for much of your day or spend time in audio or video production, you know exactly what that means. But what about the rest of us who notice our inboxes fill up without much thought to its source or intent?
Input comes from other sources as well and has a distinct impact on the output. Young children get a lot of input. It comes from parents and any other adult in their lives as well as other children and media they get exposed to. (Think about how often you see a toddler playing with an adult’s cell phone or tablet.) Each bit of data from whatever the source starts to set up influence that can become habit and habits are powerful things.
Input begins for each of us as we awaken from sleep. The input of the alarm or whatever we use to awaken us and past input influences what we do or say next. Some of us will be eager for the input and a podcast (radio in olden days) or music immediately gets turned on as we head for the shower and cleaning up for the day. That input sets the tone for the day in energy and attitude many times, but it doesn’t stop there. Past input will influence what we choose to wear after we pop out of the shower and if we take time for a healthy breakfast that gives us the healthy energy we need or if we grab a cup of coffee and head out the door.
If you’re not sure how healthy that choice of breakfast is, most of you will know by mid-morning. Your energy will either still be giving you all you need, or you’ll be searching for someone to make a new pot of coffee and scrounging in your pockets or drawers for a leftover candy bar or other snack. Because no matter how you feel about breakfast, our bodies were designed to run on fuel and absent putting good fuel in the tank in the morning, our performance will not be optimal (no matter what you tell other people about not needing breakfast).
And it’s not just those things that impact our day and get the big influence in how it goes and how we manage whatever life throws at us. Will our “diet” of information come from whatever source of news we prefer? If so, we will be inundated with primarily bad news of tragedy, potential catastrophes, and a long list of arguments to rankle our senses and prepare us for the first debate we run into with someone else without much thought about whether it fits with our value system or was even accurate. The biggest influencers of that day are counting on us not considering any of that. They just want you to buy the thing, the idea, or the suggestion and go with it. Little wonder the laws get passed on every level of government that leave us scratching our heads. Politicians cobble together hundreds of pages (sometimes thousands) and give their own preferred synopsis of all that urging colleagues to vote for the law or bill. Colleagues have little time to read, digest, or consider any data supporting the law and decide. Little wonder it is often “garbage in, garbage out.”
If we are honest, we don’t think much about the habits being formed in our lives or where those we have even come from let alone their impact.
“As far as habits go, the invisible reality is this: We are all living according to a specific regimen of habits, and those habits shape most of our life.
A habit is a behavior that occurs automatically, over and over, and often unconsciously. A study from Duke University suggested that as much as 40 percent of the actions we take every day are not products of choices but of habits.”Justin Whitmel Earley in The Common Rule
Some of you may be thinking we need to be better educated and that is likely true for us no matter what level of education we have attained, but that is not enough as Earley notes:
“Education is what you learn and do – things you are taught. Formation is what you practice and do – things that are caught.”Justin Whitmel Earley in The Common Rule
These adults in our lives teach us many things on purpose, but most of us catch a lot of things they may not have intended. You may discover that when someone says of you, “You do just what your mom did with that.” We catch whether words are shouted or spoken with kindness. We catch the beliefs and values that are lived more strongly than some that are taught from all the sources that are giving us input. Hypocrisy can show up in the blink of an eye when a child suddenly uses a bad word in a public setting that they heard and learned at home from the very best of parents.
If the input in the physical realm and educational realm are significant to provide us with a healthy life and the energy to sustain it, what input goes into our spiritual life?
It’s been said that what we spend time on and becomes habitual points to what we worship. Ouch!!
If the only input we receive spiritually is maybe a Sunday worship service, how does that help sustain us when the darkness of the world increases and shadows fall across even things we thought would never succumb to them? What fuels our spiritual life and formation? Does it include daily nourishment by having time in the Bible and solidify the foundation of our faith, time in prayer to acknowledge our need for grace, mercy, help, and more? And if we want to teach our children these habits, do they see us doing them as well?
Making that input a priority will mean adjusting the other input habits that we have grown used to having, but they can make all the difference on so many levels and clarify our purpose as well.
“Habits are how we stand up and get our hands on time. And because time is the currency of our purpose, habits are how we get our hands on our purpose.
All those who want to be attentive to who they are becoming must realize that formation begins with a framework of habits.”Justin Whitmel Earley in The Common Rule