A Stubborn Habit

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Each of us develops a rather lengthy list of habits as we go from infancy well into adulthood. Some of them come from training we receive early on. They include things like how and when we brush our teeth, make a bed, get dressed, use a knife and fork when eating, and many more. Others we pick up on our own such as biting our fingernails, arranging our food on a plate in a certain way, determining how we prefer our eggs, and how we share our stuff.

If we are honest, most of us have a collection of habits, a mix of good and bad as well as some that are neutral. The neutral ones aren’t good or bad but simply the way we prefer to do things like how we tie our shoes or whether we sleep on our side, back, or stomach.

Because habits are things we tend to practice habitually, they are difficult to break if we try to change them. I am sure any brain scientist could tell us why. I only know that as a teacher I once learned that if we misspelled a word three times that we would need to practice it accurately 25 times to learn it correctly.

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Some of the hardest habits to break are those connected to our health. Most of us do not have an affinity for exercise and are challenged to develop a healthy habit of regularly doing it. Many of us have difficulty even thinking about breaking our habit of eating chocolate or ice cream more often than we ought. And those are just small examples of what we deal with and plague us as we get older in the offices of our physicians.

Habits reflecting our character (whatever that may be) are other difficult habits to break when they do not serve us well. Some seem to be intrinsically a part of us such as not always telling the truth, selfishness, and preferring our own way. Perhaps they are woven into our human DNA since they are present in the earliest stories of humanity. Those I mentioned tend to be evident from very early ages and how we experience consequences or are trained often impact how embedded they become. Even with consequences some of us believe time and time again we can get away with doing them and persist. If we persist, at some point the consequences have ramifications we can no longer avoid.

We can be very good at justifying most of our habits. We say things like “I just had a small bite,” “I got up too late,” “I forgot to bring that with me,” “everyone in my family always did it this way,” or “I tried, and I just can’t stop.”

It’s true that some habits affect the chemical makeup of us and be extraordinarily hard to break, but it is also true that many pesky habits are ones we really like and don’t really try to break.

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We prefer our own way of doing things and for us they become the “best” way and as a result we can be judgmental and critical of how anyone else does it and a stubborn habit of dissatisfaction develops without even realizing it’s there. This is the “right” way to do “this” and doing it any other way is clearly “wrong.” We dismiss the idea that it may be a personal preference and neither “right” or “wrong.”

This pesky stubborn habit of dissatisfaction can have a deadly effect on relationships with our employers, other people in our lives, and even God. This habit erodes our gratitude. Gratitude and dissatisfaction may co-exist for a time, but one will ultimately overtake the other and often it is the worse of the two. Then we are guilty of not appreciating how someone did something for us because they did it differently or we don’t appreciate the thought behind a gift we were given because it isn’t within our taste. It can mean we decide God isn’t good because He didn’t answer our prayers in the way we wanted Him to do and our faith and trust in Him erodes. We don’t even recognize we are being critical of God in that scenario.

This stubborn habit can mean getting bad reviews at work or even losing a job. It’s even more deadly in relationships, especially those closest to us. We live with family members much of the time and this seems to be a “hot house” for breeding and growing this problem. It’s where our preferences either get reined in or become our demands. It can start with something small like how the towels get folded or which way the toilet paper roll gets put on, but it rarely stops there. The habit can grow like a cancer until soon the other person can’t seem to do anything “right” in our eyes.

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The tragedy of such a trajectory often leads to broken relationships or regret that consumes us when that person is no longer a part of our lives by either choice or death. It’s then that we come face to face that it was us putting ourselves first, preferring ourselves over someone else, and determining we were “right” above all else. The cost sometimes is one we discover when it is too late. We had spent our time feeding our dissatisfaction until like dandelions in a lovely green lawn – it took over the lovely lawn and soon there were only dandelions.

This is a habit that is against every spiritual tenet we espouse and believe and yet its essence is sin that we need help from God to break. He alone can break its power and convict us, offer us grace, and forgiveness so that what is most dear to us is not harmed or even destroyed.

One way to begin to take back the territory is to begin practicing gratitude. It may not be easy but is a powerful weapon to defeat dissatisfaction. Some I know make a gratitude journal and they jot a few things down in it each day. Others deliberately start thanking others for things they have done (no matter how they did it).

Yes, it can sound harsh to label this as I have but of all things, we will one day answer for, it will be how we have loved God and one another. When we are convicted that too is a place for gratitude because it gives us opportunity to change. It reminds us that God loves us so much that He communicates a better way to get to those goals and most of us (me too) need that reminder and nudge often.

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7 thoughts on “A Stubborn Habit

  1. This steps on my toes, Pam. 🙂 Since Jeff has retired, I’ve become aware of many, many “habits” I have of doing things the “right” way in the home, and now Jeff comes along and does them the “wrong” way. lol. We’re both having to relearn the art of compromise and gentle language.

    1. That’s a “gift” most couples discover in retirement. And no one told any of us to expect that. This post comes from my own experience on the points as well. Kitchens get very small too it seems😂

  2. I could not agree with this more! 100% ABSOLUTELY! We have to change our dissatisfaction and discontentment to gratitude and contentment! Preach on, sister! Visiting today from #tuneinthursday

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