Man is essentially a creature of habits. What you choose to eat and how much, what time you go to bed and what time you wake up, your conduct, and so many other actions stem from habits—good and bad.
Good habits help you carry out everyday functions and enhance your relationships with others. These include using proper hygiene, respectfully greeting elders, deferring to those in authority, and showing common courtesy, to mention a few. You form a positive habit when you do the right thing repetitively until it becomes a part of you.
Bad habits, on the other hand, are actions that could injure you and others. Over time, these wrong actions can also become part of you. These include overeating, not getting enough sleep, allowing your home to be messy, procrastinating, always arriving late to appointments, crudeness, constantly borrowing money, overdrinking, negativity and gossiping.
Yet as difficult as bad habits can be to break, you can learn to overcome them!
Forming a habit is like writing in pen on a piece of paper. While it is easy to write on a blank sheet, it is difficult to completely undo what has already been written. In the same way, it is easier to form a new habit than break an old one. Once an act becomes a part of your routine, it is difficult for the brain to change. Also, the more you perform an action, the more you do it without thinking. Habits are not what you are, but rather what you allow yourself to become.
How to Overcome
As Christians, we are commanded to put away our old nature and become a new creation (II Cor. 5:17). By allowing God’s Spirit to rule in us, we are able to put off the old man and put on the new man (Col. 3:9-10).
Philippians 2:15 says we are to “be blameless…without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Bad habits have the effect of dimming our lights and preventing us from shining brightly as positive examples to the world. They inevitably call our own faith into question and can also mar the reputation of God’s Church.
Bad habits are like leaven. They corrupt us and those around us. Therefore we must take radical action against this leaven and not allow it to permeate our spiritual lives: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump…” (I Cor. 5:7).
A good way to begin is through introspection. Find time to take an inventory of your behaviors and where you stand.
For instance, if you struggle with weight, ask yourself: Am I truly dissatisfied with my current weight and overall health or just feeling guilty after overindulging at a meal? How does my current health affect my immediate family and friends in the short term and in the long term? What role am I playing in making the problem better or worse?
If you find that you are having difficulty upholding God’s standards on a consistent basis when interacting with others in the world, ask yourself: Do I act differently with people of the world than I do with brethren? Do I attempt to blend in by talking or dressing the way they do, cracking dirty jokes or secretly enjoying such jokes? Am I embarrassed by the fact that God’s Way is different from the world’s and therefore requires me to be different?
These are just two examples of challenges Christians can face, but the point is that careful examination of the root cause of the unwanted behavior will assist in discovering weaknesses.
Again, you can overcome bad habits if you set your mind to it. A good practice to help you is to observe good habits in action. This can involve observing the examples of others including the ministry or other Church members who are good at what you are striving to become. Listening to sermonettes and sermons describing various dos and don’ts can also be very valuable. The key is to maintain an attitude focused on learning and changing, always remembering to consistently apply any lessons learned to improve your life.
More practical ways to help you form good habits are as follows:
Bad habits often originate from attitudes broadcast by the god of this world—Satan. With God’s Spirit working with us, we certainly can overcome. Its power allows us to reject negative impulses and follow what is right.Learn to despise the bad habit. You can better stop a bad habit if you become tired of the results it brings. If you hate it enough, you will be able to muster the strength to fight returning to your old ways. A reluctance to jettison negative thoughts often makes people return to bad habits. Instead, you must take control, even of your thoughts.
Philippians 4:8 is instructive here: “…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”Take action immediately. Many think it is better to take a gradual approach to beginning to overcome a bad habit. But this is usually ineffective. It is far better to make a change immediately. Even though you may not completely change overnight, by starting forward with your goal, you are one step closer to overcoming.
That said, with some bad habits, complete cessation of the act is in order. Take poor eating habits for example. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure and are at risk for a heart attack, you must determine to change your lifestyle immediately. While this is an extreme example, it shows that breaking some bad habits requires desperate measures.Replace an old habit with a positive one. It has been said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” If you want to truly abandon a bad habit, it is best to replace it with a positive one. Otherwise, there is a tendency for the bad habit to return and, due to discouragement, become worse than it originally was.
Christ expounded on this principle in Luke 11:24-26, where He described a person who had been cleansed of an evil spirit, but did nothing to replace the “vacuum” created after his cleansing. This resulted in the evil spirit gathering seven more wicked spirits to again possess the person—making his latter state worse than the first.Consider helping others to overcome the same habit. Often, loved ones, friends or other brethren are trying to eliminate the same bad habit with which you struggled. You can often lean on them for support and at the same time—without preaching at them—encourage them to abandon their own bad habits.
Most important, let your light shine so that others can see your good works and want to emulate them (Matt. 5:14-16).
Unlearning a bad habit can be a difficult task, but it is achievable. The fact that we are ambassadors representing Christ (II Cor. 5:20) should give us additional motivation. We must portray good habits in all we think, say and do.
As Christians, we must realize we are not immune to bad habits. But God’s Spirit can help us overcome. We must dedicate ourselves to getting rid of and staying free from bad habits!