Habits can be good or bad, and we all want to overcome the bad ones and cultivate the good ones. Recognizing a bad one is the first step to correcting it. And once we see it, we have to take action at once. Mental habits of mind can be just as difficult to break as quitting biting your fingernails. But here are a couple of things that might help.
A bad habit is a like a pathway that has been worn in your lawn by taking the shortcut. If you want your lawn to look good again, you have to redirect the traffic by either putting up a fence or by making yourself walk the long way around the lawn. The path is not going to disappear overnight, and you may put your foot on it once or twice before you remember and go back around. But eventually, the grass will grow back in, and you may forget there ever was a pathway wrecking the lawn. That is the grace of God.
Mental habits are like that. We get used to tracking a certain way and we have to make a point of redirecting our thoughts. Instead of dwelling on the negative, beating ourselves up, introspecting, or other bad habits, we have to take our thoughts in hand and make them work on something else, whether it is planning the guest list for sabbath dinner, or thinking about what to give Aunt Jane for Christmas. It doesn’t have to be a “spiritual” topic; the important thing is to stop the habit of looking inward, giving way to worry and fear, or dwelling on your spouse’s shortcomings, or what ever the sinful thought pattern is.
Another way of looking at it is to think of that conversation in your head as a radio station. When you are driving in the car, and on comes some foul music, you probably don’t just continue to listen to it, but you change the station. But sometimes when you are stuck in a store with bad music playing, you tune it out. But we have to stop tuning out the crummy thoughts and pay attention to just what is going on in our heads. This continuing conversation has content. What kind of music is it? Is it glorifying to God? Is it tearing others up? Is it destructive, petty, self-centered, or negative? Change the station. Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself instead. Paul told us to set our minds on things above, not on things below. Setting our mind is like setting the station. You pick. You choose. You don’t just listen.