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Posts tagged ‘destructive habits’

Six Steps to Better Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions

SOURCE:  David Murray

The wisest man in the world said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”

(Proverbs 23:7).

What we think has a huge impact on what we feel and what we do.

For example, if I think about all the things I failed to do today, I will get discouraged and possibly even angry. I will then drive home in a bad mood, and those thoughts and feelings will have a knock-on effect on how I interact with my wife and children.

If, on the other hand, I focus on what I actually managed to accomplish, if I look at the boxes I ticked today, and fade out everything else, then I go home cheerful, energized, and ready to play with my kids and chat to my wife.

Dark and Dangerous

Now think of a more serious example. If a person thinks only on the bad things that have happened in his life, or on the bad things that could possibly happen in his life, and that becomes a long-term habit, he is going to end up very depressed, very anxious, and maybe even suicidal.

Although there are and have been many good things in his life, and there are good things ahead, yet looking on the dark side has become such a habit that he finds it really difficult to change what his mind fixes upon. People have told him to change and he’s told himself to change, but he feels stuck and sinking fast.

Skillful Advocate Needed

This man needs someone to come alongside and help him to see and focus on the good things in his past, present, and future, to reason  him to a more realistic and accurate picture of his life. As if in a court of law, he needs a trained and skillful advocate to bring exhibits and evidence before him, and to persuade him to make revised judgments based upon the facts that are being presented to him.

Hopefully, as the evidence mounts and reason prevails, the mind gradually learns to think along different pathways, the old negative habit weakens and the new positive habit increases in strength until it becomes the new normal. As that happens, his emotional well-being improves, his energy returns, his relationships improve, and he becomes productive at work again.

Traffic Jam Therapy

Let me return now to a simpler and less serious example in order to break this down further in a way that we can all relate to (well, the men at least).

Next time you’re sitting in a traffic jam and you start steaming and screaming, try to understand where these feelings and actions are coming from by asking yourself these questions.

Step 1. What are the facts? The facts are that I am in a two-mile back-up and the radio tells me it will take one hour to clear due to a breakdown in the fast lane several  miles ahead.

Step 2. What am I thinking about these facts? I’m thinking about the idiot who broke down in the fast lane. I’m thinking about all that I could have done with this hour.

Step 3. What am I feeling? I’m angry at the guy who broke down, I’m frustrated about the lost time, and I’m worried about what my friends will think about me for being late.

Step 4. Can I change the facts? No, there is no way out of the traffic jam.

Step 5. Can I change my thoughts about the facts? Yes, I can believe that this is God’s plan for this hour of my life. I can be grateful for time to stop and think and pray in the midst of a busy day. I can practice my breathing relaxation techniques. I can listen to a sermon on the radio. I can pray for my friends.

Step 6. What am I feeling now? Slowly I feel peace, tranquility, calm, and trust in God coursing through my heart and body.

We are what we think

In each of these examples, I’ve asked six questions in two groups of three. The first three – about facts, thoughts, feelings – help us identify our thoughts and recognize how they are impacting our emotions and behavior. The second three – also about facts, thoughts, feelings – help us challenge our thoughts, change them, and so change our feelings and actions. In summary:

  • How did I get into this mood? Facts, thoughts, feelings.
  • How do I get out of this mood? Facts, thoughts, feelings.

The Psalmist follows these steps when he found himself depressed and worried (e.g. Ps. 42, 73, 77).

These six steps are also at the core of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and help explain why it is so effective as part of a package of holistic care for suffering people.

Christians who have compassion for hurting and broken people would become even more effective in helping them if they would learn the basics of how to use this God-given tool. A couple of good books to get you started would be I’m not supposed to feel like this (a simple introduction written by three Christians), or Mind over Mood (not written by Christians but even simpler and very practical).

For more difficult issues and complicated problems, I’d recommend that pastors and counselors try to find out if there are any Christians who practice CBT in their area, or at least someone who will work with you (and not against you) as a Christian pastor and counselor. You will learn a lot from them and over time you will see them as a vital and valued part of your pastoral care team. All under the authority of God’s Word.

What we think has a huge impact on what we feel and what we do.

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How to Stop Being a Manipulator

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

I received many e-mails from readers indicating that they saw themselves as [manipulators]. They were victims of manipulation as well as manipulators, and they wanted to know how to stop this destructive habit.

So how do we stop?

First, you must recognize when you are doing the manipulation and that isn’t always easy. Christine wrote me and said, “After reading your newsletter, I now see I manipulated all of my adult children to come home for Christmas using guilt trips. I wanted them to come home so bad, I just wouldn’t accept no for an answer.”

Manipulators want what they want, and they will go to great lengths to achieve their goals. Often we rationalize that the ends justify the means. But when you regularly manipulate someone, the relationship deteriorates. Even if you got all of your children to comply in coming home for Christmas, they are doing it out of guilt not love, and the underlying feeling is resentment. Is that what you want?

All healthy relationships require the freedom to say no to the other without fear or pressure. When freedom is absent and you don’t allow someone to say no to you or have their own opinion on things without making them feel guilty, pressured, afraid, or stupid, then you can’t have a healthy relationship with that person. Part of good emotional, mental and spiritual health is your ability to tolerate the pain and disappointment when someone doesn’t do what you want. No one always gets what they want, even if what they want is good.

John e-mailed me after the newsletter and said, “My wife says I’m controlling and I never allow her to have her own opinion. I disagree. I just think I’m passionate and assertive, and she avoids conflict. Am I controlling and manipulative like she says? I don’t see it.”

I encouraged him to invite honest feedback from those who know him well. I suggested he ask work colleagues, other friends, family members and children how they experience him and encourage them to tell the truth without fear of retaliation. Most of them said he was intimidating and controlling. John was flabbergasted. He had no idea. Now what?

Once you see you have this tendency to push for your own way, your own agenda and manipulate others to comply, if you want to stop doing it, you must humble yourself and confess this problem. Confess your new-found awareness to God and ask people to give you direct feedback when they feel you are being manipulative toward them.

Old habits die hard and, even when we want to change, we don’t always recognize what we are doing until it’s already done. When you invite feedback, you are asking people to stop you right in the midst of your manipulative tactics which shows them that you are serious about changing them.

Next comes the hardest part. When they give you this feedback, you must stop. You can’t keep pushing, bullying, arguing or guilt tripping. Thank them for their feedback and stop and reflect on your actions. Ask God for his help to see it as well as handle the disappointment of not getting what you want.

If we want to stop destructive patterns, we must have other people who can regularly speak into our lives, because the Bible tells us we all have a tendency to lie to ourselves (Hebrews 3:13, Jeremiah 17:9).

Your friends and family will know you mean business if you practice these four steps:

  • See (become aware)
  • Confess to God and to people
  • Ask for feedback
  • Stop when you are engaging in the pattern of manipulation

They will see you sincerely want to change this destructive pattern. Change doesn’t happen overnight with anything. Even though you see something needs to change, the actual changing takes time, practice and persistence. But I promise, if you practice these steps, you can stop being a manipulator and learn to be better friend, spouse, colleague and parent.

Slipping Back? Seek Help!!

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Bad News/Good News

Do you sometimes find it hard to manage your thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, or emotions?

Do you persist in a destructive habit even though you know you are hurting yourself or those you love?

Do you have patterns or defects you want to correct, but find it difficult to do so?

On New Year’s or your birthday, as you reflect on your life, do you think of some areas of your life that you want to improve or even remove over the next year?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone.

In fact, if you answered no to all of them, you are either lying or in denial, as none of us are perfect in any, let alone every area of life.

Whether we know it or not, we have all operated in a self-destruct mode at some time in our lives. For some of us it’s been this way most of our adult lives. Perhaps you have tried to do right … tried to make some change. For a while, things may have improved. Then you find yourself slipping back to your old frustrating habits or patterns.

Well, what do you want first, the bad news or the good news?

Myself, I like the bad news first, so here it is.

You can’t make these kinds of changes by yourself. Unfortunately, you are going to have to rely on someone else.

Now for the good news: needing someone else’s help is OK because you couldn’t change by yourself and you don’t have to change by yourself.

God is standing by to help you. He is inviting, even imploring you to turn your problems over to Him. He wants you to know they are not person-sized problems … they are God-sized problems. He loves you, wants to save and ultimately sanctify you. He has the power to overcome anything you are and any struggle you can imagine. But more than wanting to, He is so capable. He has the ultimate power and strategy to make your change happen.

Unfortunately, our enemy, Satan, wants to trick us. His lies say we don’t need God, that we really can change on our own, or that if we really need assistance, the world will help us or will do it for us. Our own innate nature, which is selfish and me-centered, leans toward trusting only self and doing it all under “my own power.” Both of these strategies leave out God and only lead to a slow and tortuous inner death.

Today, take the beginning steps to overcome any destructive pattern in your life: admit you have the problem; admit you cannot correct the problem by yourself; tell God you are sorry for what you have been doing and that you truly want to change. Then trust Him to help you. Seek guidance about how to incorporate Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Bible into your everyday decision-making.

You didn’t get this way overnight, so life will not change overnight. But you can start developing the skills and disciplines to start moving in the right direction. God will be with you throughout the process.  Bringing God into your change process is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Heavenly Father and Ultimate Healer, Sometimes I feel so alone and helpless. Please bring Your Holy Word to my mind at those times. Help me remember that You are always with me, and that with You, all things are possible. Your instruction in the Holy Bible is so powerful … it can actually renew my mind and set me free. Help me to apply Your teachings and trust Your promises, instead of trusting my understanding and self-made instruction book. I pray this in the name of the One You sent who is the Good News, Jesus Christ; AMEN!

The Truth

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Psalm 16:8

With Him, all things are possible. 

Philippians 4:13

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

Catching All Those “Little Foxes!”

SOURCE:  Living Free

Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” Song of Solomon 2:15 NLT

Some marriages with no major problems get into trouble because of an accumulation of little things. The Bible says that it is the little foxes that ruin the vineyard.

Make a commitment not to ignore the little foxes in your marriage: being thoughtless or preoccupied, forgetting special days like anniversaries and birthdays, criticizing, taking your spouse for granted.

The little foxes might seem unimportant, but they can eventually knock a marriage and family relationship off its feet.

Go on a fox hunt!

Are you letting any foxes loose in your marriage? Are you spending time with your spouse or has “busyness” taken over? Do you really listen to her or him talk? Do you continue that little habit that irritates your spouse? With God’s help, identify the little things before they become big things.

And then stay on the alert. Do an occasional fox hunt to be sure pesky little habits aren’t creeping up on you. And replace the destructive little foxes with acts of love. Plan a surprise dinner for two. Buy a sentimental gift. Join your spouse in one of his or her favorite activities—even if it’s not your thing. These little acts of thoughtfulness can help a marriage thrive.

Father, help me become more aware of the “little foxes” that I bring to the marriage … and help me replace them with acts of love. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Committed Couples: God’s Plan for Marriage & the Family by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Why do I keep doing the same sin over & over again?

Editor’s Note:  As called out in the following article, Christ-centered and clinically sound support systems (such as offered by ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Living Free) are vitally needed to overcome any life-controlling problems.

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at The Counseling Solution/Rick Thomas

The alcoholic spends his entire paycheck at the bar, in one night.

The crack addict steals money from her daughter’s savings to get her fix on.

The fearful person is in a situation she can’t control. Now she’s afraid.

The porn addict is tired and exhausted, feeling defeated. He gets his fix by surfing the net…again.

The gossiper needs her “approval fix,” so she passes along some juicy info about a friend.

The mocker fulfills his desire to control others by making fun of people through put downs and sarcasm.

The insatiable shopper has two closets full of clothes. She softens the blows to her conscience by calling herself a “comfort shopper.”

And what do these people have in common?

They all are habituated in a sin habit that has been going on for many years and they believe it will never go away. In this sense, the gossiper, the fearful, the druggy, the alcoholic, the mocker, the shopper and the porn guy are all the same.

It is important to understand when you think about addictions that you also include the more refined addictive sins like frustration, fear, self-righteousness, criticalness, insecurity, or mocking.[1]

Addictive behavior is not just reserved to the more sensational or socially understood sins like alcohol, homosexuality, and drugs. We’re all addicts in our own way. I’m an addict; you’re an addict.

I’ve never met a person who was not an addict in some way. Sinful addictive behavior is a result of our fallenness. Therefore, the obvious questions are:

  • How did these people get this way?
  • How did you get this way?
  • How did I get this way?
  • Did we choose one day that we would yield our lives to the cruelty and slavery of sin?
  • Are we responsible for our condition? …our actions?
  • And the most important question of all, “Can I stop my addictive sinning?”

I’m in a trap. I can’t get out.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

To begin unpacking these questions we must begin where Paul began. As a son or daughter of Adam, our default heart condition is an unquenchable and undeniable loyalty to ourselves. At our core we are self-centered.

With a pre-conditioned heart that is motivated toward self-centeredness it is not hard to understand how and why we have been caught in various sin patterns.

When I say “we have been caught” I’m not saying we have been caught as though we were busted like a policeman pulling someone over for speeding. Though that can be called “getting caught,” that is not what Paul means by the word “caught.” Paul is saying we get caught as though we are in a bear trap and we cannot get out of it.

I do not control it. It controls me.

For example, there was a day when each of us made a choice to sin, whatever that sin may have been. Inthat day, we were in control of our sinful choice. We had power over our sin and could pick and choose when, where, and how we wanted to participate in sinful thoughts, desires, cravings, behaviors, or activities.

However, in process of time, we began to lose the control we once exercised over our sinful choices. We began to develop habits. Habits are, in part, how God wired us. Habits were never meant to be evil.[2]

The bad news, post Genesis 3, is that we do not just develop good habits. Because of the invasive power of the doctrine of sin, we have the ability to create bad habits too. Habit is the word for repetitive behavior. The word habit does not distinguish between good or bad. The word is neutral. It is our heart motives, which eventually becomes specific behaviors that determine if the habit is good or evil.

When evil habits begin to exert its power over our hearts, then we’re not far from what our culture calls an addiction. Paul called it being caught, as in being caught in a trap.

My strength is weaker than my sin

Let’s pretend you are caught in a bear trap somewhere deep in the woods. Let’s further pretend that your strength is zapped and you have no ability to open the jaws of the trap to release your bleeding ankle.

Your hope is diminishing by the second.

It is the nature of the bear trap to exert a greater power over your ability to overcome it. No Bear Trap Maker would ever make a trap that was easy to escape from.

It is the nature of sin to exert a greater power over your ability to extricate yourself. If you could extricate yourself from your sin, then you would not need a Divine Rescuer. There would be no need for a Gospel. The only way you can get out of the traps you get yourself into is through God-ordained means.

Back to the woods

You decide to pray (yell) to God for help. How do you expect God to answer your prayer? Do you expect Jesus to show up and loosen the trap? Do you expect the jaws of the trap to miraculously pop open? It’s not likely that either one of those events will happen.

Does that mean God did not hear you and, therefore, is not going to help you?

The answer to that question really depends on your understanding of prayer as well as God’s ordained means of helping His children. What does Paul say?

…you who are spiritual should restore him… – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Rescue happens in community

Did you know that every time you prayed to God for help to get out of your habitual sinning that He heard you? Did you further know that He provided a solution to your problem?

One of the biggest reasons people get caught in sin and stay in sin is because they do not want anyone to know about the sinfulness of their lives. The man trapped in the woods needs the help of his friends. The man trapped in sin needs the help of other Christians.

That is the way it has to be.

A fool thinks he can habituate himself in sin all by himself and that he can get out of his sin all by himself. Not likely.

In Galatians 6 Paul is calling the body of Christ to attention. The “spiritual” in this verse simply means those who have the Spirit, the Christians. This is essential counseling my friends. You and I need the community of faith to help us out of our addictive behaviors.

And this is where the rub is. We don’t want to tell anyone about our messes.

Keys to breaking addictions

If you apply these simple biblical truths to your life, then you can get help for the repetitive sins in your life:

Humility – The road to change always begins with humility.

Transparency – You must intentionally and completely expose yourself.

Honesty – Only the whole truth and nothing but the truth about who you really are will help you.

Repentance – While all of the previous keys are part of repentance, I have created a ten-minute video that carefully unpacks a fuller understanding of the Doctrine of Repentance. Watch it now.

Contexts – Place yourself in the community of faith. A small group setting is ideal for habituated sinners like you and me.

Friends, do not over-think the situation. Do not look for the next best book for your problem. The church, historically, has never needed the “next best book.” If you carefully apply God’s Word to your life, while authentically living in the context of likeminded believers, then sin can be defeated, no matter how habituated you have been.

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