Good Habits as Foundation of Moral
and Personality Development
By Apolinario Villalobos
From the pulpits of worship temples to seminar rooms and schools, the call to make the habit of being “sorry” for misdeeds as a way of life is being made. Priests, pastors, evangelists, and self-proclaimed preachers, make the reminder as part of their spiritual sharing. Highly-paid lecturers in seminar and business training centers devote paragraphs of their module in Values and Attitudes for such a reminder, and the teachers likewise, never miss an opportunity to call the attention of their students about it. While some are successful in their effort, the rest unfortunately failed, and are still failing because of the adamant refusal by others to change.
We still meet people who, instead of being apologetic for hurting the feelings of others, have the temerity to say, “good for him, he deserve that” . Government elected officials who became overnight millionaires from plundering the people’s money, are one in saying, “good for those fools who voted for me”, as if further saying, “never say sorry for money”. Speaking of government officials, the then, President Gloria Arroyo, said sorry to wash her hands of the stain of election fraud, but many of the Filipinos doubted her sincerity when she mumbled it.
This elusive word requires two efforts – that of saying it with sincerity by the wrongdoer, and wholehearted acceptance by the victim. Such word when released by the lips of the offender will just be left floating in the air if the party for which it is intended will not accept it. No result then is achieved. Just like the rest of human acts, the action should be of a two-way direction – reciprocal. Love, for instance, though how great, becomes useless if the one who expresses it will not be loved in return. In many instances, the reciprocal action is given at the end, when the one asking for it is fighting for his last breath, and most ironically, at his wake or grave.
To ensure that smiling and greeting become habits, an airline requires their flight attendants and pilots undergoing trainings to greet and smile at practically everybody they meet in the building – lounge, corridors, and elevator. During break periods, public areas of the building resound with “good morning, sir/ma’am” and “good afternoon, sir/ma’am” and become bright with toothpaste smile . After contract signing, these former courteous trainees who become regulars turn snooty, with stiff necks while treading the airport terminal floors on their way to the departure gate to board their flight.
During election times, the country becomes abloom with smiles – of campaigning candidates. As one of my money earning ventures, I wrote on – the- spot speeches of a candidate, during which I braved the heat and the pang of hunger during his sorties. I was amused by the quickness in how he could change the expression of his face from a serious one with tightly pursed lips to one with a clownish smile. If I wanted to give myself a perk in the morning with even a few minutes of laughter (good for the heart), to dispel stress, I would just imagine this politician with his dexterity in changing faces. His entourage had a good laugh behind his back one time, when he berated his driver – while still smiling, as he had just finished talking to a media man. He forgot to zip his lips and be his real self again when he scolded his driver! But what happened to a former lady senator put her in a far worse situation because of dead nerves on her face resulting from the injected chemical to firm up her sagging facial skin. The paralyzing effect of the chemical gave her the permanent staring look on her face. She had to come up with a difficult choice – smooth face or sweet smile. She chose the first and is now regretting it, for she could no longer part her lips even just for the slightest smile.
Habits can be “formed”, that is why there is a reminder that certain acts can be “habit forming” if not checked. For a person to develop positive habits, the people surrounding him in a morally healthy environment are imperatively necessary. And, it starts with the family – at home. The effort to develop a child should not only be expressed by words but also by actions. The foundation of the habit should be tempered with values to withstand influences as the grown up child steps out of the door of the protective home. Hugs and profuse pronouncement of “I love you” are useless if a growing child sees his parents entertain friends at home over bottles of beer while enjoying in filling the house with their cigarette smoke to a choking point. Not a single drop of understanding can be absorbed by a growing child who is always reminded by his mother to “love your teacher and classmates”, but sees her slap their maid at the slightest mistake. And the child is further confused by the reminder of his mother to “love Jesus” but sees her harass their elderly neighbor.
Finally, as the saying goes, one can always try to change for the better. Unfortunately, without firm determination, this quest can only be anchored in hope.