Habit is one of the most powerful traits, both in and of itself, as well as with regard to its effect on things external to its own self.

Although a particular habit is not inborn, it is as forceful as it were, like the [popular] saying, "Habit becomes second nature."

Aside from its own great innate strength, it is extremely powerful in affecting that which is external to itself; indeed, it affects all [aspects of a person,] both the limbs of his body as well as the powers of his soul.

Soul-powers operate in two ways:

1) By influencing at close quarters, like the intellect that influences by explaining and clarifying the matter; whether it be concerning a matter relating to study or conduct, the influence of the intellect is pleasant and gentle.

2) By affecting from a distance, by decree, like [the soul-power of] will that influences in a domineering and dictatorial fashion.

Habit works in the second manner, through decree and dominion, as the saying, "Habit reigns supreme in any sphere."

Without any consideration of the matter at hand, be it a minor concern pertaining to the limbs of the body, or be it a major concern pertaining to the soul-powers, habit operates in an autocratic manner, paying no heed to anything outside of itself.

Like the other traits and soul-powers of man, habit serves a most useful role when employed in good and worthwhile endeavors. But when used in worthless and base pursuits, habit becomes completely bad.

In other words, there are both good and bad habits. It is understood, therefore, that education and guidance, as they pertain to the modification of accustomed behavior, must be structured to suit the nature of the habit.

This means that education and guidance must be administered with unswerving resoluteness and with a specific intent: to bolster and enhance good habits, and to destroy and uproot bad ones, so that they are wholly obliterated with no remaining vestige.

Now, even a good habit occasionally requires correction.

For example, one who is accustomed to eating good foods and delicacies might do so in order to invigorate his faculties, to be able to study assiduously. Although such a practice is well intended, yet this specific habit, in and of itself, leans more towards bad than good.

Besides the fact that [a person's interest in] the fine taste of food and drink is degrading to the inher ent character of man, it is also contrary to the way of Torah.

In this case, education and guidance ought to realign as much as possible the [basically good] habit, to conform with the way of Torah.

Synopsis

Habit, even if well-ordered, is forceful by nature, acting upon every thing by dictate and decree.