What hill am I willing to die on? This is an important question, and one everyone should know. For every aspect of our existence, in each phase, we will have to fight some battles. Deciding which ones are worth fighting is often more important than how many battles we win. Even if someone had an adequate amount of resources and energy to fight every battle, they would eventually run out of time. And, more likely than not, they would run out of ground (i.e., they would be on the morally wrong side of at least a few of the battles). This leads us to learn how to prioritize; figure out what matters and why. In my own life this has not always been easy. I am often overwhelmed by the moment and lose sight of context. However, an attempt at increasing personal awareness of our own priorities should be done at frequent intervals, otherwise, we may forget what is important.
Religious or not, lessons can be learned from the Israelites. One instance that never sat well with me is their inability to have faith even when their God was sending food from heaven, guiding them by a column of fire, and sheltering them with a constant cloud. It’s not within the scope of this blog to get into the factuality or interpretation of Scripture. Even taken as an allegory or story, this is a beautiful lesson in habituation.
For those of you not psychologically minded, let me explain: Habituation is the ability of an organism to get use to something. Things that were once not normal, become everyday. We habituate to our pay increase, how fast we’re going on the highway, and to the temperature of the water in the pool. Initially, these things may jar or startle us, but we acclimate to them and then ignore them. While there are limits, there is very little to which we cannot habituate. Habituation makes sense, otherwise we would walk around so constantly amazed at everything we wouldn’t be able to hold a job, a conversation, or consistent thought. We would constantly be aware of the clothes we have on, our scent, or our own heart beating. That’s no way to go through life. But just because we aren’t constantly aware of these things, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to them at times. It just means that paying attention has to be intentional.
This becomes especially important in the “crisis of right now”. If the “crisis of right now” overwhelms the accomplishments of “yesterdays then”, we may readily succumb to universal thinking and global assessments. The top phrase to demonstrate this has to be, “Nothing will ever change!” In those four words the entirety of all existence and time has been condemned to static nothingness. That’s fairly bold.
The Israelites, in facing their “crisis of right now” neglected to remember the miracles of their “yesterdays then”. That God had showered them with food, protected them from the heat, brought forth water from rock, and guided them with fire, crumbled in their awareness of their immediate threat. They had become so habituated to the miraculous parts of their life, they failed to have hope. Whether those miracles really happened or not is beside the point.
The point is this: How would I interact with my children differently if, amidst a tantrum, I was to stop and remember how I marveled at their birth? How would I interact with people differently if, amidst my frustration with them, I were to stop and remember the brevity of life? Perhaps, instead of stopping to smell the flowers, we should stop to remember the successes of “yesterday’s then” when overwhelmed with the crisis of “right now”.