How does one get hooked on a bad habit? It’s actually quite easy given our sinful natures. I think all of us are prone, if we’re not careful, to fall into some form of bad habit probably for many reasons. But the one reason I believe kind of drives it all is self-centeredness.
Think about it. What are the two greatest commandments in the Bible? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. It seems that God knows that we love ourselves. A lot.
Obviously loving God is the highest priority. But to put such an emphasis on loving others as much as or more than self shows something about how much we really do love ourselves. How often do you think about what you want, need, or desire on a daily basis? If you’re like me, it’s frequent. In fact, I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to wear, what am I going to eat, do I need a haircut, why does my back hurt, how come this guy cut me off in traffic, etc. The focus is on me a lot.
So considering all this, starting a bad habit is really not that difficult to understand. Since we’re already prone to love self, sinful desires are only a step away. And it only takes repetition of feeding a sinful desire for it to develop. Take over-eating as an example. You’ve had a bad day so you indulge. You’ve had a great day so you celebrate. You’re home watching TV and you’re bored so you munch on something. Over a period of time you’ve developed a habit of eating for every occasion. And that may lead yet to other bad habits, but you get the idea.
So how do I transition this from a bad habit to an addiction with pornography? Like I said, sinful desires are only a step away. But consider the so-called addiction to pornography. Is it really an addiction? Could it be just an extremely bad habit? An article in the NY Times shows that addictions are really learned behaviors. They can be very strong and intense and sometimes unlearning those behaviors can be quite difficult. And in my opinion it fuels the sin nature which makes even that much more difficult.
I believe that the brain is so complex that the science community can’t even fully comprehend it. That goes along with the way we learn, associate things, and process the information all around us. The brain takes in all the stimuli, the environment, and the conscious and subconscious factors involved. I also believe the more the brain is stimulated in an activity that brings what is perceived as “pleasure,” the more intense and solidified the behavior becomes. Add to it what the brain receives when hormones and chemicals are involved (natural or unnatural) and it’s possible that the behavior becomes more subconscious and more difficult to overcome.
Again, I don’t believe in providing excuses for the poor choices I’ve made in my life. The many choices that led to my dysfunction with pornography are my own doing. But I also see how being exposed to pornography at a young, impressionable age in addition to the hormone-filled years of adolescence made an impression in my brain that intensified the temptations and led to many years of sexual immorality.
But as the article shows in the NY Times shows, these behaviors can be reversed. It takes the process of undoing the learned behavior over time and teaching the brain new, better habits. If the brain can be taught to receive “pleasure” apart from the sinful activities, such as making our relationship with Christ be our joy, then we can develop good, healthy habits that hopefully will become as intense in a good way as the bad habit was once, well, bad.
It is a choice. If you have a bad habit, are you willing to teach your brain to think correctly? The article called it “self-programming.” It involves change. Maybe it’s a change in the environment, or minimizing the temptation in some way, but in any case relearning can be done. I believe it can because with God all things are possible. And God is in the business of healing, restoring, and sanctifying.
So if you have a relationship with Christ, pray that He gives you the strength and endurance to make it happen. Get the support of other believers and, more importantly, elders within the church. If you don’t have a relationship with Christ, may I suggest you make that decision today? I believe if we’re to leave that bad habit behind, Jesus is the only way. And if you want to know how to have a relationship with Jesus, let me know and I’ll tell you where you can get started.