A Word for 2014: Habitus

I think that picking a word to be your year’s theme is a neat idea, and Habits was a solid anchor for 2013. I didn’t get my list of habits all engrained, but I did work on them all and improve. Most notably, making my bed really is a habit now! I am now a person who makes my bed every day. That is a huge success for me, a keystone habit that proves to me that progress is possible.

When I was considering what might be my word for 2014, I realized that liturgy would be a recurring theme with the upcoming book club and with my intentions to improve birthday and holiday traditions. So, I started writing this post with liturgy in mind, but when I looked it up in the dictionary, it is clear that liturgy connotes only worship-service practices. Now, I am not going to quibble with James K.A. Smith’s using the word, or Jenny Rallen’s talk, but I couldn’t bring myself to appropriate the word that way.

However, another word was at the ready, thanks to Rosaria Butterfield’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, one of my top 10 books for 2013. In her book, she used a word I had never seen before and have since only seen in the dictionary and Wikipedia when trying to find out more: Habitus.

Habitus (sociology), a structure of the mind characterized by a set of acquired schemata, sensibilities, dispositions and taste.

Mrs. Butterfield’s point when she used the word was that her actions influenced her beliefs, perhaps even more than the intellectual arguments. Sound familiar, those already reading for the book club? She writes:

habitus

And what about my home, my habitus? A habitus is a way of life that forms habits of the head, habits of the heart, and habits of the mind. My habitus had heretofore been a bastion of leftist political activism. What does a Christian habitus look like, especially one run by a single ex-lesbian with a now defunct PhD?

What does a Christian habitus look like, indeed? I think that is a key question to ask, particularly while discussing Desiring the Kingdom.

Clearly this is a Latin noun, and a quick internet search tells me that it means “disposed, inclined” or “a condition, state, plight, habit, deportment, appearance, presence, mien”

The dictionary goes on to define this sociology term:

Habitus refers to lifestyle, the values, the dispositions and expectation of particular social groups that are acquired through the activities and experiences of everyday life. Perhaps in more basic terms, the habitus could be understood as a structure of the mind characterized by a set of acquired schemata, sensibilities, dispositions and taste.

There are four concepts I want to meditate on and develop this year:

Habitus is intentional practice.

Habits, a lifestyle, is made by many repetitions. Repeating myself, repeating dinner, repeating Scripture, repeating read-alouds, these are all good and necessary repetitions that are shaping. I tend to get discouraged and bogged down by repetition, so I want to work at reframing it and changing my perspective on this fact of life.

Habitus is atmosphere.

More than what I explicitly and verbally teach, habitus is made of the assumptions underneath how we live. Does how we live accurately reflect the statements that come out our mouths? I want to keep that question near the forefront of my mind.

Habitus is prerational.

This means it works for preschoolers. This means it works better than arguing with young sons who might try to appear rational, but who really aren’t. This means I don’t necessarily have to articulate it. This means the model of my own life is more didactic than any lecture or curriculum.

Habitus is all-encompassing.

It touches everything. It is holistic and knows no compartments in life.

I hope you will join me this year as I explore this concept and what differences it makes in our day-to-day lives!

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You can find more people’s posts on their word of the year at His Mercy is New’s link-up!

6 Responses

  1. dawn
    |

    Mystie, I love you. Can I be you when I grow up?

    I’ve been considering the word-year idea, but I have two competing words repeating about me: abide and sojurn. They’re really antonyms. [sigh]

    • Mystie Winckler
      |

      You’re sweet, Dawn. :)

      Wow, just thinking about how abide and sojourn complement one another is a deep thought-train to take. I think it’s really more of a paradox, since both concepts are quite biblical.

      Maybe it’s not a one-word year for you, but a paradox year, living them both at once.

  2. Emily
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    Awesome.
    I love to learn new words.
    FANTASTIC!

    Happy New Year.
    Blessings,
    Emily

  3. Dawn Duran
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    This is a magnificent post, Mystie. And yes, it is pretty perfect to consider as we move into discussion of Desiring the Kingdom and the talk of liturgy. I have been pondering HABITUS since your post appeared in my email box yesterday and falling more and more in love with it. Thank you for teaching me something new.

    By the way – I rarely click over to blogs when their posts are delivered to my email so today is the first time I am viewing your new blog layout. I love it!

    • Mystie Winckler
      |

      Then you clicked over just in time, because my husband just made those changes yesterday evening! :)

      Isn’t it a neat word? I’m glad you’ll be discussing the book with us!

  4. Jenny
    |

    I love learning new words. This looks like a good one to guide a new year.