Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
Every person struggles with bad habits. We all may not have the same bad habits, but the process of breaking them is the same across the board. A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. The world labels actions such as nail biting, smoking, and excessive drinking as bad habits, but as Christians we understand that any continual action or thought that is sinful is a bad habit in need of breaking. So how do we break it?
Psychology Today wrote an article titled “How To Break Bad Habits.” While the information is helpful in telling us how to break habits such as nail biting and smoking, it fails to tell us how to break sinful habits. If sin has become an acquired behavior pattern that is almost involuntary, that is, if we find ourselves practicing the same sins continually, we are no longer walking in the light. A habitual sin problem is the definition of walking in darkness. It is at this point that we have lost our salvation, and the sinful habit needs to be broken.
Psychology Today’s article on breaking bad habits was missing one very important resource: God’s Word. Let’s follow the steps they mention, but incorporate scripture into them so that we can break our sinful bad habits.
Define the concrete behavior you want to change or develop. It’s good to say “I’m going to stop sinning,” but that’s too vague. In order to break a sinful habit we need to be specific. David wrote an entire psalm specifically asking God to forgive him of his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51). Peter told Simon the sorcerer to repent and pray to God concerning a specific wicked deed he had done (Acts 8). Be specific in identifying the sin, and in praying to God.
Once we have pinpointed the sin, identify the triggers. For example, if you struggle with pornography, identify the trigger. Things like being alone with your computer or phone. Identify and recognize the temptation when it comes. Joseph was faced with temptation in the form of Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39.
Identifying the triggers is the first step, but we must also learn to deal with the triggers. This is where we must be proactive. If we wish to break a sinful habit, we must actively look for ways to avoid the temptation. Jospeh did so by running away and leaving his coat in Potiphar’s wife’s hands (Gen. 39).
Next we need to develop a substitute plan. As Psychology Today points out, breaking a habit isn’t about stopping but substituting. Once we have dealt with the trigger, we must substitute the sin with something else. In this case the best substitute for sin would be scripture or time spent in prayer. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He refuted the Devil using scripture (Matt. 4). He substituted the sinful propositions with God’s word. The habits we are breaking should be substituted with something that will help us continue breaking our sinful habits. In this case, that would be God’s Word.
Next we must change the larger pattern. It’s no longer just about a singular sinful habit. It’s about focusing on our Christian walk as a whole, changing our daily routine so that it’s harder for sin to have a place in our everyday lives. If we are focused wholeheartedly on living for Christ, sin will no longer be relevant to our goal (Luke 9:23).
To help us in our goal we must also get supports. Find a brother or sister in Christ to talk to and pray with. When the temptations come we should use our Christian family resources. God designed the church as a place we can go to for help, encouragement, and support (1 Thes. 5:11)
In everything we must be persistent and patient. Realize that we aren’t prefect and as humans it will take some time to completely rid ourselves of a sinful habit. Don’t use a single “mess up” as an excuse to quit altogether, and don’t see it as an impossible task. Living a godly life takes persistence and patience (Col. 2:6).
Finally, if we have done everything we can to rid ourselves of a sinful habit and we can’t seem to break it, get professional help. This may be in form of a Christian counselor, an elder, a preacher, or someone you look up to. Ask for help from those that are grounded and rooted in their faith. There’s no such thing as a professional Christian, but each one of us can think of people that have wisdom and knowledge far greater than our own. Seeking out help means swallowing our pride and admitting we can’t do it on our own (Matthew 8:5).
Source consulted: Psychology Today Article