Habits: Bad, Useless, or Beneficial

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How do we build a life? One day at a time. How do we build a day? A good part of it from our habits. Those things we do that tend to repeat themselves on a regular basis. It may be a small subtle decision or a conscious choice that takes many hours of our day every day. It could also be anything in between that wide spectrum of them as well. The purpose of this article is to think of one’s own habits, including myself in this of course, and figuring out the ones that are worth keeping. In due course also the ones that are down right bad and need to be eliminated or the ones that are useless that should simply be evaluated and probably gotten rid of. I have had habits in my life that I would dare say fall into all three categories and I will try my best to share some relevant personal examples so that you understand even more vividly where I am coming from.

Psychologically speaking habits take less time to form than they do to eliminate from our regular set of daily activities. Some books estimate around 20-30 days to make a habit, and in breaking them I am sure it would vary greatly depending on the habit at hand but 20-30 days would be wildly generous for the difficult, bad habits that we tend to need to get rid of with the utmost urgency. So for instance the worst habit that I can think of desiring to break right now is still viewing pornography, lust, and masturbation. Lust in and of itself has been mitigated on a day to day basis because I don’t fall victim to this sin on a daily or even every other day basis anymore. I have been making a more conscious attempt by God’s grace for God’s glory to win more battles and to fight harder to eliminate this from my life. It’s not an easy fight in the slightest, and when I fall I am typically overly reliant on my own self-control and not enough on God through prayer and worship. I need to turn to Him more naturally in my moments of greatest weakness, this will make the difference between permanent deliverance or this momentary sobriety and relapsing that I have been persistently at for the past 10-15 years. I am 26 years old now, I assume it was around 11-12 years old I stumbled upon this abomination. We need to see sin the way God sees it, and the truth of the matter is that the content of pornography is an abomination to God so it should as well be to me. The last thing I want to do is take pleasure in something God detests, but somehow I stumble in my flesh and fail to walk in the Spirit sometimes and this is exactly what happens. I take a temporal pleasure in something that doesn’t deserve one millisecond of my attention, but not only that deserves my complete absence. It became a habitual sin in my life, and I believe God is delivering me now.

I rely on Him daily so I have to crucify my fleshly desires daily, and I think I will have to marry someone so that I don’t burn with passion eventually. For now I pray that He gives me the strength to remain in my current life station and try my best not to relapse, but instead walk the road of repentance and renounce my sexual sin. It should be easier when I spend longer away from it, the most I have gone without it is something like 60-90 days, but then I got complacent and fell back into the pit. I need to continue to be vigilant about this even when I think it has become easier and my view of women has been untarnished. I look at women lustfully less frequently, but that doesn’t mean at the end of the day if I haven’t seen a lot of provocatively clothed women it will not be a challenge not to stumble. It’s a frequent struggle that I share with other men of God and I have even joined some accountability groups for this. One of my friends, who happens to be a woman, is the one I find myself asking for prayer and help most consistently though. Perhaps it’s the idea that she’s a pretty girl and that she loves God. I know without a shadow of a doubt I can share the same struggle with several other people, but when she is available I find some sort of inner-confidence and have been able to resist. Either way ultimately I should seek my biggest solace and help from Jesus Christ, but for the sake of sharing interesting aspects of my journey I think this was one of the most in recent memory. She’s only a friend, but I think it’s possible that she could be of romantic pursuit in the future. It’s much too early to ascertain that, but I still think that sharing my struggles with a girl of romantic interest gives me at minimum a temporary surge of confidence. It’s like a hope at the end of the tunnel, I know that there are women of God who admire me out there and eventually God will provide me with a God-fearing woman who is lovely on the inside and the outside to be my wife. Of course approaching all of this with one foot over the other I cannot let my imagination get the better of me and I need to allow His timing to occur, not the timing of my own desires. It takes trust and sometimes it’s a challenge but I am not going to worry about it. The Author of Creation, He spoke the world into existence and knitted each and every one of us in our respective mother’s wombs. How can I doubt his ability to micromanage those important aspects of my life? He knows me, my wants, my needs, my person infinitely better than I do. I don’t want to settle for second best, I want His best. Nothing more, nothing less – and that’s the plan.

While I have concentrated mainly on the process, challenge, and general difficulty I have had dealing with this one bad habit in my life – it’s worth mentioning that there are many more bad habits out there. Alcoholism, Harmful Drugs, Sexual promiscuity, Anger, Not being considerate of others, and a host of other problems that some of us deal with and others do not. We all have our respective strengths and weaknesses. I don’t intend for this to be a guide for specific instructions on how to cope with each of these habits, what I wanted to do with this was bring everyone who reads it to the realization that these three categories of habits all deserve special attention, and that our foremost focus should be in elimination of bad habits. Of course there may be some room for disagreement if someone doesn’t take the Bible as their 100% authority on all areas, then our morally relativistic culture will tell you that there isn’t any problem with sexual promiscuity and furthermore encourage it. I am operating under the assumption that the Bible is your authority, so I would recommend trying to get rid of such bad habits and returning to a life of sexual purity as soon as possible. God’s word is clear on this matter, and if you’re in need of any Biblical references on that feel free to use the contact form and I will be more than happy to share some of those with you.

Some other areas of habits that could come about, that aren’t necessarily bad habits would fall into the area of useless habits. Useless habits are those habits that include hobbies or interests that don’t necessarily hurt or help anybody. They mainly involve areas of our own selfish interest that take up a lot of our time where the effort, output, and/or time involved do not involve enough benefits/rewards to be worthwhile to us. I have had my share of hobbies in this category, for instance one of them being PC games. I find many of them fun, especially RTS games, but at this stage of my life I ask myself more frequently if they redeem the time. At the end of the day will I feel as though I derived enough personal satisfaction to justify sinking hours playing Starcraft 2: HOTS, or might I gather more personal satisfaction and lasting impact by spending some time at the gym, writing an article, or doing some else all-together. The choice lately has geared towards those latter habits. The gym builds the temple of the Holy Spirit, keeps me healthy, and gives me a better chance of living a healthy and longer life.

God has given us beautiful bodies and capabilities, we need to use our mind, logic, and some resources to take care of them accordingly. It doesn’t mean we need to become slaves to the gym or look in the mirror 2 hours a day, what it means is that we should care about our physique to the extent that it helps us continue to be healthy. There’s no real excuse to sit back and let being overweight or obesity linger in our lives, when a bit of proactive exercise can eliminate those issues overall. In terms of writing articles or continuing my book writing project it’s a very simple decision. I believe I am storing up heavenly treasures and building a lasting legacy here on earth by sharing my perspective on God’s word. More importantly the articles that lay out God’s word in an uncompromising fashion and don’t contaminate it but instead elaborate on points that some others might find intriguing to their personal lives. It’s quite the honor God has bestowed upon me. I don’t believe I am the best writer in the world by any means, but I aim to be the best that I can be so that I can personally improve in my craft and that over the years I will only get better. God has given me this gift, so I am delighted to use it to bring Him glory through it. If that includes helping and loving my brothers and sister’s in Christ with what I write, I think that’s fantastic. Even if this article helps a handful of people I would count myself majorly blessed as I believe that is building God’s kingdom. Whether it inspires a non-believer to consider Christian living or a believer to further their walk with God in some area small or big, something has been accomplished and it has the capacity to turn into eternal value. Someone who reads this article and gets inspired to manage their time better, conquer habits that have held their attention unnecessarily captive, and invest more time in God’s work would be a beautiful outcome. I don’t put that beyond the scope of possibility and I pray that if it is in God’s will that is exactly what might happen.

Some other perceived useless habits might be a matter of measuring our opportunity cost and whether certain decisions are cost effective for us. For example, is it cost effective for you to cut your own grass or wash your own car? If you can earn $50 in an hour of work and you wash your own car, chances are you’re not managing your time properly and that time spent washing your car could be better utilized. Of course this doesn’t take into account that washing your car could be a mentally soothing activity. Repetitive manual labor, disconnected from phones and other distractions might be exactly what you wanted. Maybe you weren’t washing your car to save the $15-$20 it might take to get it washed by someone else, but rather to help you get away from other obligations and let your mind find a resting place for a while. I can sympathize with that and I would leave such instances to mutual discretion by all means. It’s the same with the yard work, chances are you’d be best off hiring someone to do your yard, depending on it’s size and the local cost of this service. Unless it’s one of the few ways you find yourself outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and getting some much needed sun. Each person has to take these small considerations for themselves, but get creative. Re-evaluate once in a while whether you might be better off shifting some of your time to one area or another.

Perhaps you’re in a season where you could use more physical/outdoor activity because you need to disconnect your mind from the hustle of life and the grind of e-mails, social media, and persistent calls at work. That’s perfectly understandable, so try to pick up a hobby like fishing from bridges, kayaking, or biking for example. Maybe you’ve decided that you need to enhance your mind with new knowledge, update your repertoire of insight in certain areas, and you need to read some current books on relevant topics to you. Grab yourself an iPad or physical books if that’s your preference and make time to sit down for an uninterrupted 30min.-1hr. or more when possible, and lose yourself in a book once in a while. Don’t forget that the book that deserves our number one attention is the Bible, but when we want to diversify our reading list there are a lot of worthwhile topics and authors out there. A few of my recent favorites include Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Steven K Scott’s “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived”, Julie Cave’s “Deadly Disclosures” (first of a trilogy of Christian fiction), Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, and Julius Fast’s “Body Language. We all have different interests, but most of mine tend to gravitate towards areas of Christian living, self-improvement, Marketing, Psychology, and Poker strategy for instance. To each their own, but some of these are highly recommendable if you find yourself interested in a few of these areas yourself.

Finally, we arrive to the consideration of good habits. There are some basic good habits that we can hope we’ve all got down to a science. Brushing our teeth in the morning and at night for instance, showering daily, and wearing clean clothing. These are all great things to do, and anybody who has the capacity and blessings to be able to do these things should by all means take advantage of them. What other good habits might we find ourselves cultivating though, can we think of any that may be more “off the beaten path”? I think it’s become a habit of mine to read the headlines on Yahoo or NYTimes depending on my aspirations to read simple or more elaborately written articles of various current events. It doesn’t take long, maybe 15-30 minutes, but you’ll be updated really quick on what has been going on lately. Sure you might be distracted by the latest Miley Cyrus escapade once in a while, but those can typically be easily ignored and life goes on. Alternatively speaking I think you can make a fantastic case to disconnect from it all, but that’s of my personal opinion.

Circumstances matter, if you’re working a 9-5 where it matters a great deal to be connected and have your talking points at hand in the financial sector or what have you I would consolidate to the necessities and gather the rest circumstantially. These days you can open Twitter or Facebook and get a pretty big chunk of news from reliable friends just from scrolling for a couple of minutes while you walk from your bathroom to the kitchen. I have tried to make it a habit to write daily, and for the most part I believe I have succeeded in that pursuit. While I don’t always write articles or even write in my book every single day, I do manage to do some bulk tweeting or other micro-blog updates here and there to keep the craft moving along. I think it’s important for me to keep it frequent and I would name this one of many beneficial habits I pray God helps me to consistently use. There’s an opportunity to become a career author on the horizon for me, and it’s not that far off. It’s irreplaceable that I am highly active in order to make that dream a reality.

If you have a family, you’re already married with or without kids, and you don’t want to take your work home with you – maybe a beneficial habit would be getting in one hour early, working efficiently and finding additional ways to do so, and while you may not always get out early at the very least you’ll find the organizational capacity to allow yourself the space to enjoy your afternoons and nights at home during the week with your loved ones without interruption. While I am a big fan of having a passion or at the very least a fond interest of whatever work one finds themselves pursuing, I am an even bigger fan of ensuring that our sacred time at home to spend with God, family, and friends should be treasured. If your work has you on call, try your best to have a great switch. My father is consistently on call for instance, but he does an admirable job at both attending to his phone calls and detaching himself from the stressors of work when he’s disconnected himself to his personal life. In that sense I know it’s not easy for anybody, nor do I even claim it is easy for him, but I think as a conscious decision it’s possible.

There are a plethora of small, beneficial habits that one might take for granted but in the aggregate make a significant difference in day to day life. Taking out the garbage doesn’t cost me more than 30 seconds to 1 minute, so by the time you’ve thought about the “agony of throwing it out” you could have already done it. Just do it and get it out of the way. When you’ve got a list of things, like a “to do list”, make sure you’ve got 2-3 relatively easy things to do on there and it’s not a list of purely daunting activties. It helps you to know within yourself that you’re on the way to getting some things done and progress has been made. I know it sounds a bit illusory when I put it that way, but when you see the progress you’ll understand what I mean. Psychological or not I want to know that I am getting somewhere.

It’s probably worth mentioning the validity of short-term and long-term goals here. I think having short-term goals gives us the fuel of having day to day milestones that we can reach to understand that we’re heading in a general direction, and the long-term goals should remind us that every single day adds up to more significant accomplishments that cannot always be understood in a short time. Even if they can be understood, they certainly cannot be accrued to be accomplished in a day. So for me I could have something like a word count, or a desire to update my book and write or start one article minimum per day, those would be great short-term goals towards my long-term desire to become a paid author who writes Christian perspective books in non-fiction and possibly even fiction in the future. Mid-term or long-term I would say it’s still a high priority for me to finish my BA, find a girlfriend that I can say I am building towards the possibility of marriage with, and ultimately aiming to bring God glory with the entirety of my life and our lives after we’ve become one flesh in marriage. Knowing that I will not marry her until God offers me the green light and she will be happy to accept my proposition because she knows that together we’ll improve each other as we further seek to follow God’s will in our lives together. That we may have the potential to build a family down the road and that it would be a challenging, eventful, and enjoyable life transition taking place when that time arrives.

Don’t underestimate the subtle things and don’t ignore the importance of the major things in your attentiveness to detail. Ask the Lord to help you keep track of all the priorities in your life and make your habits align with His will for you. Try to design habits that would bring honor, glory, and acknowledgment to Him, not just personal satisfaction to you. I like how John Piper puts it in a sermon of His: “God is most glorified in us, when we’re most satisfied in Him.” Seek to find contentment and satisfaction as you serve God, don’t always try to seek your happiness in the next page. You’re living the next page, don’t wait until everything is in perfect order to reach that point. I am saying this specifically because everything will never be in perfect order this side of heaven, you might as well find happiness in the journey. There will always be something available to complain about if we look closely enough, let’s not focus so much on those things and focus instead on the good we can do and how blessed we are rather than where we’ve fallen short and our deficiencies in life.

I hope that God will give you the discretion, guidance, wisdom, and ultimately the inner-desire to eliminate the habits that are bad and hinder your life, to consider tossing the useless ones as well, and to maximize the impact of your beneficial habits. Habits that will be a blessing to you, others, and to God’s kingdom matters too.

Glory to God!

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