Here’s to Bad Habits!

By Paul Koch


So, the World Cup has come to an end and we can finally quit pretending that we all love the “beautiful game” and get back to the other delightful distractions that fill our lives:  like the noticeably less impotent (no that’s not a typo) sports that fill America’s pastime. Sure, Hockey and Basketball are dormant this time of year and Baseball is recovering from its all-star break but it won’t be long until Football (not Fútbol) is up and running at full speed.

In the meantime, I think this is a perfect opportunity for us to work on ourselves. And no, I don’t mean that it’s time to read a self-help book on positive thinking or make some new resolution to finally get off the couch and down to the gym. I am picturing something completely different, and much more fun. I think it’s time to take pride in our bad habits; it’s time to hone them and develop them into something of which we can really be proud.


I simply refuse to believe that I am the only one who has grown sick and tired of the pietistic neo-prohibitionist mentality that thrives in anything even resembling Christianity, these days. Aren’t you sick of the scowls from the pious when they find out you occasionally light up a cigar?  Aren’t you frustrated with the repeated questioning regarding the morality of having beer at the church picnic? Why does a life of faith mean a life without any bad habits?

Now look, I’m not talking about destructive habits that harm our wellbeing and affect those who depend on us. But not all who enjoy a glass of bourbon or a cold beer are alcoholics.

If I’m seeking my identity, security and meaning in this world at the bottom of a bottle or a pack of cigarettes or box of doughnuts then we have a problem; because then, part of the Creation has become my god. But what if I receive the relaxation that comes with a well-made Manhattan as a gift of God?  What if I cherish every drag of my Macanudo as a reminder of God’s care and goodness? These, however, are just simple benefits to the individual. But, I tell you, these bad habits reap rich rewards when they are practiced communally.


Think of the dinner party you’ve thrown or the backyard barbeque. Remember opening the 3rd bottle of wine or the making of the fourth pitcher of margaritas? Such habits breed laughter and comradery.  When employed with expert timing and care they prosper our friendships and strengthen our bonds. Who hasn’t felt the inclusive welcome when offered a fine cigar? Such things as these make life rich and joyful.

Let’s not hide our habits away from the morality police of today’s church. Rather let us use them to lift the spirits of our brothers and sisters. St. Paul wrote,

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8).

Might we dare to add; if cocktail hour, with lovingly prepared Martini’s; if dinner parties, with specially chosen wine; if conversation, over good cigars? It’s time to make some time to develop our habits instead of being shamed by them. After all, they may not be just for your benefit or distraction, they may provide a much needed distraction and benefit to your neighbor.