“THAT’S MY WAY.” Unfortunately, these words aren’t aimed at reinforcing good habits. On the contrary, “That’s my way” is a common excuse to justify our character defects, hurtful temperamental reactions, or misplaced responses that generate a hostile environment.
Today our characters are being heavily tested. We have many excuses for appropriating this phrase: stress, confinement, exhausting workdays, biosecurity measures, 24/7 cohabitation, changes in our usual way of working or studying, and more. How we face these challenges is our decision, though.
We must be aware that by using this excuse, we are saying, “This is my character, and I will not change.” We deny the possibility of improvement and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Character encompasses both personality and temperament. We cling to our defects because we know it’s not easy to change bad habits long entrenched. The problem is that even though we try to hide them, they usually arise at the most inopportune moments. We make victims of the people we love the most, and the negativity ends up spreading to everyone around us.
Ellen White wrote on this subject: “Repeated actions form habits, and habits form character.”1 Good habits produce a good character, and bad habits create a bad character. Since character is what we will take to heaven, how can we get good habits?
Although difficult, it is possible to achieve. The formula is found in Christ’s Object Lessons: “Christ has given us no assurance that to attain perfection of character is an easy matter. A noble, all-round character is not inherited. It does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ.”2
Years ago, my husband and I wrote for Priorities magazine some ideas about changing bad habits. I share them as an aid to character transformation.
IDEAS TO CHANGE BAD HABITS
1. The power of God is important. It’s not easy to change habits. However, with God’s help, it is possible. Paul wrote: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Asking God for help will provide the strength needed to bring about change—a strength greater than our will.
2. A good habit should replace the negative. Carolyn was spending a lot of time in front of the TV watching soap operas. She didn’t feel good about herself, so she resolved to learn a new trade she could practice at home. Personal satisfaction and some money were the rewards for the change of habit.
3. New good habits must be firmly established. Good habits must be repeated constantly. The more the habit is repeated, the more it is fixed.
4. Bad habits must be starved. Just as a good habit must be fed, a bad habit must be “starved.” The lack of repetition of it makes the will stronger to say no. It’s possible there will be relapses, but we shouldn’t allow discouragement to affect the process of change.
5. Support is vital. A personal project of change should be a matter of a couple and even family. A lot of support is needed, especially in case of relapses. Phrases such as “I told you—you’re not capable of stopping” shouldn’t be uttered. A word of encouragement will restore faith and hope. On the other hand, good behavior achieved should be reinforced and rewarded in a suitable way.
Let’s pray that the next time we say “That’s my way,” it is to give glory to God for new and positive habits that by His grace are part of our character today. Let us affirm the Scriptures, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
1 The Upward Look, p. 89.
2 Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 331.