Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Leaving Old Habits Behind- Wendy Van Eyck

Most of my twenties were spent picking at split ends. I was forever searching my hair for signs of breakage and then tearing or cutting them off. I did this when I was bored, when I was nervous, when I was alone and when I was around others.

I tried to stop at various times. Once I even wore an elastic band on my arm for a month, stinging myself every time I went to look for a split end. A few weeks later, though, I was back to the old habit. I often pictured myself in an old-age home staring cross-eyed at my grey hair. I really thought this habit would be with me forever.

Last February, I walked into the hairdresser and told them I wanted to cut my hair as short as possible to donate the length to a charity that makes wigs in aid of cancer patients. It was an extreme move, but by then my husband was going into his second year of cancer treatment, and I found myself determined to show some solidarity. An added bonus would be that with my short hair my habit of scouring my hair for split ends would have stop.

In one dramatic cut I chopped nine inches of my hair off. In the first few weeks I found myself running my fingers through my short hair surprised that I couldn’t pull it in front of my eyes to search for split-ends. After a few months the trait was gone and I thought I was free of a habit that had become my trademark.
But hair grows. And as it grew I found myself pulling my hair in front of my eyes out of habit. Stretching the short strands so I could search for split ends. I was surprised how strong the desire resume my old habit was. Over the last few months, I’ve had to choose almost daily to fight it, to catch myself when I find my fingers reaching for my hair, and consciously choose not to pick that habit back up.

Although I’m not struggling a major addiction, it has still been hard to break it. I’ve had to fight the habit. I never expected that. I figured after almost a year, when my hair grew back, the urge to pick at it would be gone.

A friend of mine, a social worker who works with addicts, has given me some advice that has helped. What she does with addicts is teach them that throughout their struggle they have the power to make a choice. She then walks them through hypothetical scenarios and the choices they could make.

The social worker used the example of someone who is addicted to porn. She said that when the thought comes into a person’s mind that they want to go look at porn, they need to learn that they have a choice not to. She would ask them, “What else could you do other than look at porn?” They might suggest calling a friend or going for a walk. Now they have a choice, they could go for a walk, or they could look at porn. She explained that with any addiction there are critical moments when the addict has a choice to act differently.

Applying this to my own situation, I realized I have power over my habit. I can choose whether or not to pluck at one split end or whether to push the hair behind my ear and go read. Even if I tear a split end off I can still make a choice about whether to stop.

I was reminded of this when I read 1 Corinthians 10:13. This verse says, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

I've sometimes taken this to mean that God will remove the things I struggle with before they become a problem. But I've lived long enough to know that isn't the case. I think what this writer was trying to get at was that God will be there for you whether you make a good choice or a poor decision. This verse is a reminder to me that it is never too late to start again. Even if I fail, God will be there to help me start again the next day. If I ask him to give me strength to make the good choices that help me overcome my habits, he will.

Have you already let go of your New Year’s resolutions? Have you let bad habits creep back into your life? You always have a choice, and if you trust in God, he will always provide the strength you need to make that better choice. 

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