There is perhaps no greater issue in life than how we can change our bad habits into good ones. If you are struggling with an addiction, how can you break free from it? If I am struggling with anger, what role do I play in overcoming this response? Many, if not most, people try to change their bad habits through willpower alone. And yet we have all kinds of evidence that willpower alone works for very few people.
Several years ago I was the medical director for a local “Breathe Free” program we offered in the community. This was a smoking cessation plan that helped people kick the tobacco habit. The program has been around since 1959 & has as much as an 80% success rate. Our program had that same success rate at 3 months. The question I didn’t know was how effective our program was after 3 years! We lost track of the vast majority of people when the program was completed. There was one man, however, with whom I remained in contact for years. He & I worked in the same office building so I would see him frequently each week. Brian (not his real name) came to the program because he had asked his daughter what she wanted for her 5th birthday. She had responded that she wanted him to quit smoking. So there he was, sitting in our program, desperately wanting to change as a gift for his daughter.
Brian was successful! We had a celebration party at the end of the program & his daughter was beaming! She sat on her dad’s lap that evening with a twinkle in her eye. She was proud of her day because he was victorious! Brian had given his daughter & himself the best gift possible – health. It was great to see Brian’s countenance change over the months as he remained victorious. And then one day our eyes locked onto each other as he was in the parking lot smoking a cigarette. This was more than a year later. Addictions are hard to change. They are devastating.
In my experience, it’s not enough for me to say that I will change. I might have the greatest personal motivation to change as did Brian. But I need more than my own willpower. I need more than self-control. So here’s my questions: What role does God play in your change? What is the self-control that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:23?
Perhaps the key is not in saying “No” to bad habits, but rather in saying “Yes” to God’s Spirit. What do you think? What is your experience with change?