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Controlling Bad Habits

Updated on June 29, 2015

Controlling Bad Habits

In most dictionaries the first definition of the word habit says it's a type of clothing representing a certain calling. Later the word came to refer to a pattern of behavior. As Christians we are to be clothed in the habit of Christ.

"But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Romans 13:14).

Christians place great emphasis on discipline and self-control. First, the Bible commands it. Secondly, our overindulgent human nature screams for correction and a return to personal discipline and self-control.

In recent times we have seen a moral erosion of our society. Many are asking "What's the world coming to?" Since the beginning the Bible has clearly told us the answer, especially about moral conditions in the time of the end. We are a society out of control, without discipline.

Christians should be examples of self-control before an out-of-control world. When we stop to think about it all habits have common characteristics. They:

  • Occur with regularity.

  • Happen without thinking.

  • Reflect our inner morals.

  • Are hard to change.

  • Provide some degree of pleasure.

Love is first in the list of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Self-control is last. Why? It regulates all the preceding ones

  • Love without control is passion.

  • Joy in excess becomes frivolity. Peace becomes idleness.

  • Patience becomes apathy.

  • goodness becomes self-serving.

Self-control means abstaining from the ways of the ungodly. Patience is listed among the fruits of the Spirit in the Holy Scriptures. So impatience is a fruit of the flesh, and a sin. Therefore we can't excuse it. We must make a concerted effort to become more patient.

Discipline and self-control are marks of character. Leisure and pleasure must be controlled so higher achievements can be attained. Self-control isn't a luxury. It's an identifying sign of a spirit filled Christian. Peter lists it among the seven virtues.

Examples of self-control must be consistent in the life of the one teaching in order to be effective. It's been said "He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior." Not to have control over the senses is like sailing a rudderless ship. There's no doubt it will sink when it runs into a rock. Self-control is the ability to keep your head while others are in a state of panic.

We too often fall into sin because we lack self-control. We must practice it, not out of a sense of duty for Christ, but because we love Him. Too many love ourselves more than Jesus. Satan tempts us during our moments of weakness. The apostle Paul warns us to be alert.

It is in our weak moments we lose control of our anger, language, and mind. How can we know for sure if we have bad habits and stay alert?

Choosing to escape from painful emotions and uncomfortable circumstances is simply avoiding the harsh realities of life. A lot of power bad habits have comes from our own sense of self-worth. We feel we are left alone to deal with unpleasant situations. But as Christians we should know we aren't alone. The Bible says we are united with Christ and are one with Him.

Lacking self-control can be understood as our inability to effectively control our emotions. They can be extremely powerful, influencing our moods and behaviour. When things don't go as planned we tend to let our emotions control us, blaming external causes. The reality is external situations can set off signals causing us to automatically react in certain ways, such as anger or depression. This mechanism is called emotions.

Some emotions result in joyous and happy moods. Others make us angry or depressed. Therefore, the ability to control our emotions becomes imperative. One emotional state many are experiencing today is anxiety. This can be triggered in various ways. Stress for example, can result in displays of extreme anger.

Repeatedly the Bible teaches us to be patient. Proverbs 14:17 says "A man of quick temper acts foolishly." Because impatience is a sin it makes us unhappy and can leave us open to defeat.

There is nothing to gain by being impatient. It only brings commotion and confusion. Against this background background is set the picture of our Lord Jesus, who was always patient. He attained the victory. Jesus was a man who bore all disgrace, and anguish of body and soul for our sake.

Those who can't wait for small problems to be solved will never be able to wait until God's time arrives. There are always those who tire of waiting and are tempted to visit sorcerers or fortune-tellers. This will only lead us into Satan's snare.

Patience involves suffering, Even small things can be difficult for us, if we can't have our own way. It involves suffering such as having to wait to attain our goals, as soon as we want.

The Scriptures speak of "growth" in spiritual life. Just as we can hinder the growth of a plant by impatiently trying to hurry it along, we can also hinder spiritual growth. The key is being sure God will never come too late.

The knowledge God's will is behind everything will help us practice patience in everyday life. All who bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, including patience. will inherit the Kingdom of God.

Are We in Control?

Many of us have bad habits. Perhaps we smoke, gamble, drink too much alcohol or use bad language. Maybe we overeat, tell lies or live in untidy homes because that's how we were raised. Some of these bad habits can cause serious health problems and they all reveal lack of self-control.

Admitting the Problem

So how can we take control of our lives? First we have to admit we have a problem. Once we have seriously decided to break a habit, we can begin.Think of a time you gave in to a bad habit. Analyze the situation. How were you feeling at that time?

Try to think of a time when you have given in to a bad habit recently. Visualize the situation and analyze how and why it happened.

Other Techniques

Using a distraction, such as planning a task to keep ourselves occupied can be helpful. It's best to avoid areas associated with past failures. For example, if smoking is a problem, we shouldn’t patronize the places we used to buy cigarettes. Prayer has also been proven to work.

Many times when we hear a message about breaking free from bad habits we fail to associate it with ourselves. Rather, we think of others. Certainly, the message could benefit them. However, we should pay attention when they come our way.

Identifying Bad Habits

A negative habit is something we find ourselves doing even though we are aware it can be destructive to us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Let's see what Paul writes in Romans 7:15:

"For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."

Paul understood he had a problem, although he had good intentions. Be honest, take inventory of your life and like Paul, evaluate the things you hate doing even though you know they are wrong

Life controlling habits form slowly over time and are practically imperceptible. In many cases people are unaware of them. And if someone notices, they say, “I can quit any time I want to.” Daily practices, over time, can become unbreakable habits. Good habits don’t happen over night. Just like bad habits they are acquired over a period of time.

For example, a person doesn't become addicted to cigarettes with one pack. It takes time to become dependent upon nicotine. Habits like this are formed through willful behavior. Bad habits can break your resolve to quit.

When training a baby elephant, a heavy chain is placed around its ankle and staked to the ground. Day after day it struggles to escape but in vain. Eventually it surrenders, resolving there's no way to escape. When the elephant is full-grown that experience remains, therefore relinquishes forever the struggle to be free. Then the chain is replaced with a small rope.

If the elephant understood the truth, it could break free at any time. But since the elephant isn't aware of this it never tries. Many of us are like that elephant. Once a habit has broken our will to fight we feel a sense of hopelessness. At this point the habit owns you because you have allowed it to. That is the power of a bad habit.

Many surrender themselves to a state of denial. They never admit they have a problem, therefore they never break free. We must depend on God's power to overcome our bad habits. God must become your primary source of strength, and bad habits must be replaced with good ones. God told Moses before the Israelites settled in the promise land, they were to drive out the wicked inhabitants and destroy their idols.

The Bible teaches us revealing our feelings is the beginning of healing. Being honest and revealing your most innermost feelings can be scary. But once you do it becomes apparent everybody has habits and are often the same ones you do.


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