Bad Habits are hard to break. Smoking. Drinking. Eating sweets. Outbursts of anger. Swearing. Pornography. Speeding. Running red lights. California stops. Unhealthy relationships. Biting nails. Negative thinking. Gossip. Cutting others down. Sarcasm. I could go on and on about bad behaviors and habits that invade our space. We want to quit, but can’t seem to quit.
What is it that prevents us from giving up a bad habit? What stops us from wiping it from our minds and actions and choosing a healthier path to take? What is it in the habit that holds our attention and draws us back into that pattern of behavior? These seem to have easy answers if only we could live by a counselor who guaranteed to fix any bad behavior in two minutes. A client came into him wanting to be cured of his bad habit and told the counselor what his problem was. When the counselor understood the problem, he responded to the client by raising his voice and giving the client the answer. “STOP IT!!!!!!” “STOP IT!!!!!” “THAT’S YOUR ANSWER. STOP IT”
Wouldn’t it be that easy if we could just stop it. The problem with bad habits involves at least a couple of factors. Familiarity with the habit, and pleasure. When we eat sweets, we are familiar with the sweetness of the food, and it gives us pleasure when we put it in our mouths.
I was reading about a King in the Old Testament who made a commitment to get rid of all the detestable things in the land when he took over as Judah’s leader. His name was Josiah. “He pulled down the altars and . . .smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley. The king also desecrated the high places that were for the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon. Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones. . . .He burned the high place and ground it to powder, and burned the Asherah pole also. . . .Josiah removed all the shrines at the high places that the kings of Israel had built-in the towns of Samaria and that had aroused the LORD’s anger. . . .Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. . . .Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” 2 Kings 23:12-16, 19, 24-25 NIV.
If you want to get rid of a bad habit, you have to make choices to eradicate it from your life. If it’s cigarettes, you have to get rid of them. If it’s sweets, you have to choose not to buy them. If it’s pornography, you have to place safeguards on your computer so that you can’t go there. The removal of the bad habit involves destroying or removing anything that causes you to be drawn to the habit. Stopping any bad habit involves a commitment to remove it, taking away any trigger that tempts you to do the habit, and resolve to make healthy decisions. It involves a total committed heart choice that Josiah had that allowed him to remove the temptations in his kingship.
On this journey there will be many things that tempt us. It’s our responsibility and choice to remove the bad ones so that we can cultivate a heart that is totally devoted to the Lord.