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Posts Tagged ‘Habits’

A nail is driven out by another nail;

habit is overcome by habit.

So said Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch philosopher and theologian of the 1500s.

Desiderius Erasmus

Research in recent times has proven his statement true.  One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.

That’s why President Reagan replaced his cigarettes with jelly beans, dieters replace chips with popcorn, and late-night TV addicts forego talk shows to read calming books.

Some of the most stubborn bad habits are those that occur in the mind. It’s no easy task to shut down anxious, negative, or covetous thoughts—even when we know they contribute nothing to our well-being.

But if we apply Desiderius’ advice, we can retrain our brains toward healthy, even delightful thinking. For example, we can:

Replace anxiety with trust.

Worry spirals us downward into fear; trust-statements provide the way out–trust-statements such as these:

  • I can trust the One who died for me. He will thwart every plan that should be stopped and complete each one that results in his greatest glory and my highest good.[1]
  • God is with me and for me. His strength enables me, and his light guides my way.
  • Time and again I’ve witnessed God’s provision and protection, his miracles and blessings. “All that I have seen has taught me to trust him for all that I have not seen.”[2]

As other trust statements come to our attention, we can record them in our journals or in Notes on our phones. Then we’ll be prepared when the slide into worry begins.

Replace negativity with positivity and praise.

Continual praise is what changes the emotions,

lifts the darkness, offers hope, frees the mood

and blesses God so that evil is driven out.

Praise changes everything.

–Arnold Prater[3]

Throughout the day take a praise-pause now and then. Praise God for his power to keep this world on its axis, tilted just right to support life. Praise him for the proofs of his creativity in nature, for his goodness and loving mercy that prompted him to make a way to heaven for us.

Of course, the demands of the day often distract us from such thoughts. But if we post reminders here and there—around the house, on the visor of the car, at our places of work—we can jump-start this habit.

Replace covetousness with gratitude.

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery;

it merely washes clean the glass you look through

so you can clearly see the colors.

–Richelle E. Goodrich

Too often our attention gravitates toward wants instead of haves, fostering discontentment and envy–emotions we’d do well to eliminate.

One helpful strategy is keeping a gratitude journal. Even brief entries can be effective. I only record one or two things each day, but discovered there’s benefit in the process of reviewing the day to glean the highlights. An added delight: rereading old entries and feeling grateful all over again.

Of course, developing good habits is not as easy as driving out a nail. What about those days when we fail? That’s the time to remember: even in failure there is progress.

Failure points to the inadequacy of striving on our own, and turns us toward greater dependence on God.

We learn, on the one hand,

that we cannot trust ourselves

even in our best moments,

and, on the other,

that we need not despair even in our worst,

for our failures are forgiven.

–C. S. Lewis[4]

We can begin our habits of trust-statements, praise, and gratitude right there!


[1] Based on a quote from J.H.M., Streams in the Desert (Zondervan, 1997) 295.

[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson

[3] Bonding with God (Marno Books, 2000) 78.

[4] Mere Christianity (MacMillan, 1952) 78.

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org.

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