Tag Archives: Habits

Old Habits Die Hard

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses,you cannot be saved.”
Acts 15:1 (NIV)

Yesterday I was with a young manager my client has asked me to mentor. The manager described a particular conversation they’d had with a peer in another department. The conversation was about some procedural changes that would affect both of their respective teams. The manager described their opposing views and the conflict that arose as the procedural change was not going to be universally popular.

The manager described the conversation and the slow descent they felt themselves falling into as they dug their heels in and felt stubbornness consume them. In that moment there was no possibility of compromise. The manager recognized what had happened, even felt it happening in the moment, but had been unable to stop it. The manager then confessed that this was a deep-seeded, long-recognized pattern of behavior. And, it was not a positive one. They even recognized the source: “That’s my mother!” the manager said.

Along life’s journey it’s become clear to me that old habits die hard for every one of us. If we are to make progress on our journeys, whether personally, emotionally, relationally, and/or spiritually, it will require old habits to pass away and new patterns of thought and behavior to come.

I found today’s chapter in the book of Acts to be an inflection point. Through the first fourteen chapters the explosive and expansive growth of the Jesus Movement had everyone frantically trying to keep up. When systems experience that kind of explosive growth, the system quickly goes into survival mode, setting aside minor and/or complex matters just to address the giant issues that are staring everyone in the face. As equilibrium is found, the long suppressed issues begin to surface. That’s what I see happening in today’s chapter.

The Jesus Movement sprung from the Jewish tribe with its centuries old set of religious and behavioral customs. It was, perhaps, inevitable that some of the Jewish believers were going to want to retain and cling to their Jewish customs. Old habits die hard. In today’s chapter a few of these habitual believers from the Jewish tribe tell a bunch of believers who weren’t from the Jewish tribe that they would have to adopt all of their old habits and customs in order to be a true believer in Jesus. Primary among these old Jewish habits was the rule that all men would have to be circumcised. Yeah, I’m sure that went over like a lead balloon.

So we have conflict brewing between believers from the Jewish tribe and those from non-Jewish (described as “Gentile”) tribes. While Dr. Luke describes a fairly well-mannered meeting of the minds and peaceful solution, Paul’s description of events is different. Paul describes conflict between he and Peter. He describes conflict in the relationship between Peter, believers from the Jewish tribe, and believers from Gentile backgrounds (Read Galatians 2). In Paul’s description, Peter said that he was all for Gentiles not having to adhere to Jewish customs, but then he hypocritically acted with favoritism towards the Jewish believers. Old habits die hard.

Then at the end of the chapter we find Paul and Barnabas in a sharp dispute about whether to take John Mark on their next missionary journey. The argument ends in the two friends and colleagues splitting up. What I observe is that Paul’s behavior and words in these conflicts with Peter and Barnabas don’t reflect the new code of love that Paul himself describes in his letter to the Corinthian believers, but reflects more of the old proud, arrogant, temperamental and fiery Pharisee who persecuted the church. Yep, old habits die hard.

As I wrapped up the mentoring session with my young business protege yesterday we discussed that recognizing negative behaviors and feeling the negative results from them is the first step toward positive change. The manager described the subsequent meeting between managers, their heart-felt apology, and the constructive progress towards compromise that followed. Well done. Old things begin to pass away as new behaviors and habits are formed.

This is a journey and old habits die hard, but I’ve perpetually found that they will eventually change when I surrender myself to Holy Spirit, when I diligently pursue the person I was created to be, and when I make my mission to be a person marked and controlled by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, perseverance, and self-control.

Have a great day, my friend.

You’re Right, You’re Right…

After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.
Judges 16:4 (NRSV)

There’s a great running gag in the classic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally. Sally’s friend, played by Carrie Fisher [Star Wars tie in!], is in a long term affair with a married man. She continues to complain that he’s never going to leave his wife for her. Her friends always roll their eyes and agree. She always ends with, “You’re right. You’re right. I know you’re right.” It’s one of those lines that is regularly used in our house when addressing patterns of behavior that don’t change.

By the time we get to today’s chapter, Samson should recognize that his lust for women has been nothing but trouble. His first engagement ended in bloodshed and his fiance getting burned alive with her father. Sleeping with a prostitute ended up almost getting him killed in ambush. Now Delilah is clearly conniving the big man, and he doesn’t seem to see it. Samson! Dude! Your choice in chicks always ends badly.

You’re right. You’re right. I know you’re right,” he says as he walks into the brothel.

Today I’m thinking about those patterns of behavior that always seem to end up with me in a bad place. It could be in a bad life situation, an emotionally bad place, a physically unhealthy place, or a relationally sticky place. Those patterns in which my conscience, Holy Spirit, or a combination of both whisper to my spirit, “Dude, something’s got to change.”

I can either mutter, “You’re right. You’re right, I know you’re right” before continuing in old patterns, or I can choose to address those problem areas and break the cycle.

It’s almost New Year’s. I’m just sayin’.

A New Song

Musician in Funchal
Musician in Funchal (Photo credit: lode.rummens)

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
Psalm 144:9a (NIV)

Can people really change, or are we stuck in patterns of behavior over which we are powerless?

That is a pretty important question for anyone who gives serious consideration to their life and path. Over the years I’ve run into a lot of people who truly and honestly raise the white flag of surrender on their habits and destructive behaviors:

  • I was born this way.”
  • It’s genetic.”
  • It’s just who I am. I can’t change.”
  • There’s nothing I can do about it.”

I have come to recognize that there are some things that we can’t change, although I’ve discovered that most of the things that I can’t change are circumstances and people I don’t and shouldn’t control. My own thoughts, words, and behaviors however are things I’ve found that can and do change.

I was struck this morning by David’s commitment to sing a new song to God. He’s not just singing a song, but a new song. It’s an important recurring theme in David’s lyrics. Across the anthology of psalms you’ll find the phrase “new song” in psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144 and 149. I love the word picture because God is a God of transformation. Through victories, defeats, major successes and abysmal failures David continued to recognize God’s continuous and transformative act of creation in his life.

My personal experience of following Jesus is that it leads to a never ending call to examine, confess, and change. My life is a churning process of personal re-creation. The theme of my life’s song changes from season to season. Old things pass away, and new things come. And, it never ends in this lifetime unless I choose out. And, choosing out is always an option. Many people do.

This morning I am more committed than ever to the music God is composing through my life. There are dissonant notes coming out of my thoughts, words, and actions which I know I need to change. There are parts of the orchestration that I don’t control and I must be content to make changes and improvisations that weave my notes into harmony with them. The one thing I don’t want to do is stop playing.

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Steering Out of Unhealthy Ruts in Life’s Road

The Road to Home
Familiar ruts (Photo credit: Universal Pops)

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.
Psalm 116:7 (NIV)

There is an ebb and flow to life. Things cycle. Relationships repeat familiar refrains. We often wander thoughtlessly from day to day, then wake from a daydream to realize that we are in the same place we’ve been before. If you’ve noticed, our life journeys follow patterns of our own unconscious making. Like tires that slip easily into the well worn ruts of a dirt road, we slip into well worn patterns of thought and behavior.

Over the past few days I’ve found myself in an emotional valley. I recognize this place. I’ve been here many times before. I’ve come to know that the depth of winter is a difficult seasonal stretch of the journey for me. Short, gray days give way to long, dark nights. The holiday hoopla is over and with it comes a certain physical, emotional and relational hangover. My subconscious links familiar sensory stimuli to painful memories of seasons past. With my guard down, anticipation for the year ahead is lined with an uncertainty that easily lends itself to anxiety and fear. Ugh. Back in the rut.

I ran into the above verse this morning and I heard in it the whisper of the Spirit calling gently to my soul. Return to the rest God has for me in healthy paths and patterns. I have learned from experience that the first step in progressing out of unprofitable emotional or behavioral ruts is to recognize that I’m in it. Once aware of the situation, it takes a conscious resolve to steer out of the rut, which may require an initial jolt of personal effort and energy:

  • Replace: Combat negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
  • Replenish: Do one tangible thing each day to show care for myself.
  • Refresh: Do something loving and unexpected for someone else.
  • Relate: Make time with friends and family who will encourage and fill my life and love tank.
  • Return: to familiar, healthy patterns and paths that have led to good places in the past.
  • Remind: myself daily. Without conscious attention, I easily slip back into mindless, unhealthy ruts.
  • Repeat: There are cycles and patterns to life. Healthy, positive ruts will not made by doing things once, but many times over and over and over again.

 

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Day 14: Something Digusting You Do

calvin10
Image by thefranksterk via Flickr

Several people have asked me about the 30 day blogging challenge I’ve been doing. I found it here along with a bunch more at heckyeah blogging challenges on tumblr.

So, onto Day 14: Something disgusting you do.

I am sometimes given to picking my nose. (Sincere apologies to mom, Wendy, and my daughters)

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Chapter-a-Day Exodus 14

Don't repent of your repentance. When the king of Egypt was told that the people were gone, he and his servants changed their minds. They said, "What have we done, letting Israel, our slave labor, go free?" Exodus 14:5 (MSG)

The origin of the word "repentance" alludes to the idea of turning and moving in the opposite direction. Repentance is generally a good thing. God calls us to repent. There are crucial times in life when we "repent" of bad actions, habits or thoughts and start moving in the opposite direction. We are like Pharaoh, who after much prodding and suffering negative consequences, relent and choose to do the right thing.

I don't know about you, but I can also look back and see that I, like Pharaoh, will often quickly second guess my repentance:

"I can't believe I said I'd start eating healthier today. Look at that plate of cookies. I'll start tomorrow instead."

"Why did I tell myself I was going to work out today? The big game is on and I just don't have the energy."

"What was I thinking saying I'd be nicer to him. He was such a jerk to me. Forget that!"

Let's not, like Pharaoh, repent of our repentance and reverse course back to old ways.