Friday, March 16, 2018

Habit or obsession

It was Benjamin Franklin who reminded us it is easier to prevent habits than to break them. A habit is an "acquired behavior pattern" that is followed so frequently that it becomes what scientists would call 'involuntary'. More than likely we each have one or two habits that have become so 'involuntary' we no longer think about them, we just do them. As a matter of fact, it probably throws us off a little whenever anything interferes with that 'pattern of behavior'. If you are used to rising in the morning, putting on a pot of coffee, and sitting with the paper in hand as your 'routine', you will likely be lost if the paper delivery doesn't occur that day. Your 'pattern' just got disrupted! Most would agree some habits are not bad to have, such as washing our hands and brushing our teeth. Good hygiene is an 'acquired behavior pattern' appreciated by all. Yet there are others which are a little more 'out there' that might not be considered as 'acceptable' by some - the types of behavior patterns we might not want to 'flaunt'. If patterns of behavior can be 'acquired', wouldn't it be wise to consider if they are 'acceptable' and 'good for us' before we develop them?
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life. (Psalm 139:23-24 MSG)
If a habit is 'customary' for us, then it stands to reason we can develop 'behavior patterns' that stand up to thorough scrutiny, such as having those 'patterns' observed by others, or God. Those 'patterns' we may not want others to observe or know about are likely the ones we developed because of wrong choices in our lives. It is even possible for a 'habit' to become more of an 'obsession' for us when that 'pattern of behavior' becomes so much of a focus that we have a hard time not engaging in that behavior for any period of time. 
Is it possible for a 'good behavior' to turn into an 'obsessive' one? Yes, if that behavior begins to interfere with other actions we are supposed to be engaging in. For example, getting our hair styled in the morning is positive, but when the time it takes to style that hair exceeds the time we take eating a good breakfast, spending a little time with the family, or doing a little bit around the house to keep things in order, it likely is becoming an 'obsessive habit'.
When I think about habits, here is a little thing I have used to examine if I want to be heading down that 'behavior road' or not:
Help - will this action, if repeated time and time again, help me to develop other positive character traits that are beneficial to me and others?
Acceptable - is this action something that God views as acceptable for my life? (Just because it is acceptable for another may not mean my circumstances are the same - it might not be acceptable for me.)
Benefit - is there a benefit to the repeated action such as the positive development of deeper relationship, or the added benefit of growing in my relationship with Christ?
Intent - will the intentional pursuit of this behavior now result in any unintentional consequences later on?
Time - is the time it will take to make this action an 'involuntary' one going to be worth it? (There are times when the time expenditure outweighs the return on that investment.)
If the habit is not harmful, doesn't detract from solid character development, and won't keep us away from other equally important 'behaviors' or 'activities', then it probably is okay. Yet, we always need to re-evaluate our 'habits' from time to time because it is possible what once started out as a 'good habit' has turned into nothing more than a 'habit' without much long-term benefit for us. Just sayin!