Wednesday, January 2, 2013

All Is Calm

I must admit that I ponder New Year's Resolutions as much as the next person--probably more, fact.  (I tend to over-analyze everything!)  As I've been considering the idea of "resolutions" this year, I decided to present my friend Pam's idea of a "Family Goal for the New Year" to my family yet again--it's been three years now--to see if they want to follow suit.

This year, for the first time, they said yes! And so we have begun "No Soda 2013" (as a physical family goal) and "No Raised Voices 2013" (as a spiritual family goal).  It is our family's sincere hope and prayer to be calm, kind, and civil in all of our interactions with one another this year--and indeed, always.  We decided that whenever we have opportunity or temptation to drink soda, we will focus on the sweetness of the Lord Jesus, and on the desire we have as a family to speak in sweet tones to one another.

Interestingly, within a few hours of the commencement of this goal, the following article--"How to Break Bad Habits"--arrived to my inbox (from Guide to Depression Nancy Schimelpfening).  How interesting that one of the examples she uses to illustrate her point is yelling at your kids!

A habit is any action that we have performed so often that it becomes almost an involuntary response. If we consider this habit to be undesirable then we may label it a "bad habit." People spend countless hours and dollars each year attempting to break these bad habits and often do not have any success. Why? Because there is no magic bullet. Change is hard work and there is no short cut to achieving it. The steps a person needs to take, however, can be very simply outlined. To effect a change in habits, one needs to bring the action back into the realm of consciousness and regain the ability to make choices.

What's the Payoff?
The first step in breaking a bad habit is to look at why you find this action so compelling. In other words, what's the payoff for doing this seemingly negative thing? Since you've already classified this as a "bad" habit you may be tempted to say there isn't one. But look closer. There is always a payoff. Let's say your bad habit is yelling at your kids. What's in it for you? You let off some steam and feel a little better for the moment. Or you have a bad habit of leaving the dishes unwashed? The payoff could be that you get to spend more time on the Internet!

What's the Trade Off?
Next, take a look at the trade off. What is it that you are losing by exercising your habit? This step should be easier. Just think why it is that you consider it a bad habit in the first place. Yelling at your kids is a bad habit because it leaves everybody feeling tense and tears down your children's self-esteem. You are trading a temporary release of tension for the emotional health of your children. Leaving the dishes undone is a bad habit because your kitchen is a smelly mess. To have more Internet time you are trading off having a pleasant living environment. When you look at it that way it doesn't seem like you are making very wise choices, does it? There has to be a better way.

Time to Make a Choice!
Now that you've weighed both sides of the issue--your payoff and your tradeoff--it's time to make a choice. It's no longer an involuntary act because now you know that you are making a choice every time you perform this action. You are choosing what you value more: the payoff or the tradeoff! Each time you start to do whatever the bad habit is now you have to actively choose. Which do you value more? Do you value more the relief you get by yelling at your kids or do you value their emotional well-being? Do you value more having more Internet time or having a pleasant place to live?

Substituting Better Behaviors
The whole reason you formed your habits in the first place is that they filled a need. You had tension that needed relief or you had a desire to surf the Net. As you break the old patterns you still need a way to fulfill these needs. You will be not only making an active choice to not do the old action you will also be making a choice to perform a better, alternative action in its place. Instead of yelling at your kids you might decide to go for a run every time you are feeling tense. Instead of letting dirty dishes pile up you may decide to use paper plates when you are eating alone. What the new habit is that you substitute isn't so important as whether you feel good about the choices you have made. After all, the reason you consider it a bad habit is because it leaves you feeling bad about yourself.

It's Up to You
By now you should realize that the only way to continue with a bad habit for very long is to sink back into denial of why you are doing it in the first place. Each time you begin to resume your old patterns the thought will pass through your mind that you are trading X for Y each time you perform that action. You will be forced to make a choice, whether good for bad, about continuing your habit. What choices will you make? The one that makes you feel bad about yourself or the one that makes you feel good? It's up to you.

Our family often jokingly refers to ourselves as the Bickerdings.  The kids can spend the entire day from waking to bedtime bickering at each other, often with sharp tones or raised voices.  We adults are also frequently guilty of harsh tones and attitudes as we express our frustrations with our children's behavior.  All of us need a good dose of reminder about what we're actually saying when we choose to speak in those ways to each other.  Thank you, Nancy!

Oh, how I pray that our family will seriously pursue this goal as a family this year--and that we'll see real strides as the Lord convicts, challenges, and changes us!

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:29-32)

1 comment:

pamela said...

Laurie, i will be praying that the Bickerdings move on out of Parkside Place and that all cravings for soda will disappear! :)