Have you ever tried to break a habit or tried to get your child to break a habit and failed? There are two main reasons failure occurs— taking something away without replacing it with something else and trying to change a behavior without a change of heart and mind.
“Nature abhors a vacuum.” —Latin proverb
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” —Socrates, a character in Way of the Peaceful Warrior
Ephesians 4:22-32 incorporates the secret of change. It says to put off the old man, be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and put on the new. Then it lists specifics: stop lying and speak the truth; stop stealing and work; stop using foul or abusive language and say things that build others up; put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice, and instead, be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. People who want to stop smoking or eating too much, sometimes chew gum instead. People who want to cut down on eating processed sugary sweets, eat naturally sweet things like raisins, dried figs, and dates instead. People who want to be less negative, try to think positive thoughts, post positive notes as reminders, and practice writing and saying positive things to others. Making new habits takes intentional practice.
When it comes to parenting, if you take something away from your child, and don’t replace it with something else, you will have created a vacuum that will rage until it is filled. We can’t take something away and simply say, “Find something else to do.” If you don’t help them fill it with something good and satisfying, your child might fill it with something else that is not profitable.
The other secret to change is not merely trying to change outward behavior but to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”— to have a change of heart. The root of any problem starts in our hearts and minds. A Norwegian proverb says, “Old habits have deep roots.” Why do we do what we do? What need are we trying to fill? Will replacing a whole pint of ice cream with exercise fix the problem, or will excessive exercise and the need to be thin simply become another addiction?
…if you provide the “right intervention” or “fix” for his problem (such as ways to better communicate…), you offer only a temporary solution…yet the heart has not changed. The control center of life essentially gets better equipped to continue doing what it has always been doing — operating out of corrupted desires. —Kevin Carson, chairman for Biblical Counseling
“Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.”
Sometimes we continue doing something destructive because we think it’s what we deserve or we have no hope that we can ever become better. Don’t believe it. That’s a lie. You don’t deserve it, and there is hope.
Sometimes we do things either because we don’t know any better or simply because it’s what we’ve always done and we don’t really think about it. A Latin proverb says, “Men do more things from habit than from reason.”
“But if I do what I’ve always done, I’ll be who I have always been. God calls out more. He calls me to act out now who I am becoming.” —BJ, youth pastor and blogger in Becoming
“If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.” —Dale Carnegie
I’m not saying breaking old habits and making new ones is easy. I still have the bad habit of procrastinating at times and have to work at doing things in a timely manner so I’m not rushing at the last minute or constantly trying to catch up. Bad habits have a way of making our paths more difficult, while good habits have a way of making them smoother. And while making new habits may seem unnatural and difficult at first, if we keep practicing, they become second nature. It’s like muscle memory. But if we don’t first start by renewing our minds and understanding why we need to change, we will constantly have to keep jumping starting ourselves or eventually give up.
“When you give up…meh you didn’t want it that bad. You just kind of wanted it.” –Evan Sanders, author of The Better Man Project in “Day (380) – I Just Know”