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Tom Scotus

Breaking Self-Defeating Behaviour Patterns

Confessional - Flickr Image by: Mara ~earth light~Two hunters shoot a large moose. They phone for air transport. The pilot lands on the small lake. “We need you to haul us, our gear and this moose back to camp,” Max the hunter tells the pilot.

“Gee, I don’t know,” says the pilot. “That’s a lot of weight. We might not clear those trees during take off. We could crash!”

“Don’t worry,” says Max. “If you pick up enough speed on the lake, we’ll make it.”

So, they load everything onto the plane. The pilot guns it as hard as he can and takes off, but the plane’s pontoons scrape the top of the trees and he is forced to land in a nearby clearing. It’s a hard landing. The plane is damaged and the passengers are dazed. Max opens the door, climbs out, surveys the scene, and says, “Well, we got about 200 yards farther than last year when we tried the same stunt!”

One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result. This approach to life is idiotic, but almost all of us are often guilty of it. We are creatures of habit and we are slaves to our psychological make up. For example, we may know that if we say a certain thing to our spouse, it will probably start an argument. But we say it anyway. We may know that if we take a certain route home, we will probably go to a place of sin and later feel guilty. But we take that route anyway. We may know that if we don’t do our homework regularly, we will probably cram all night to prepare for an exam. Still, we neglect our daily work. In each case, we don’t change our behavior despite painful experiences. We do the same thing, hoping for a different result.

Changing a behavior pattern can be extremely difficult. People sometimes tell me their problems. Often, the solutions seem obvious and I sometimes offer advice. Rarely, do people follow my advice, even if they agree with it. It’s like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking. (He already knows he should stop.) Changing a behavior pattern often takes unrelenting effort, discipline and pain. It’s easier to just continue our familiar patterns and hope that change will someday just happen.

Do you have behavior patterns that are causing you grief? The first step is to identify them. Then choose one, and really focus on changing. You might need a professional counselor. You will often need God’s help. Ask Him now. Ask Him every day. Never give up. Change and success will come if you do your part. God will certainly do His.