A couple of weeks ago, I realized I had a bad habit. It is actually a pretty gross and disgusting habit that probably 99% of the population also has. Here’s the habit. Now BE HONEST. When you have a runny nose, after you blow your nose into a Kleenex, do you or do you not LOOK at the snot in the Kleenex? Admit it – you do! I see you all doing it on the train ride home. Sneezes and nose blows all get carefully analyzed within the folds of that delicate, aloe-coated tissue.
So there I was, going through Kleenex after Kleenex, propelling massive amounts of snot through my nose, and then re-opening the fold to look at the snot. What color is it? How much is there? And then, it occurred to me. What the heck am I doing? Why on earth am I looking at snot? I mentioned it to one of my friends and he agreed – that is GROSS. With a capital G. I decided right then and there to stop it. I decided that I would not look at the snot anymore. And with that decision, the battle to break my snot-viewing habit began.
While I don’t remember when it started, I’ve been looking at my used tissues long enough for that to become a full fledged habit. I do it without thinking – blow, look, fold, blow again. I would have to be vigilant and determined and aware to break this habit. It’s not like biting fingernails, where you can put something icky tasting on your fingers to make you realize you’re doing it. I can’t shock myself to make sure I’m aware of when I’m looking. This would be a battle of will versus flesh. Could I be self-aware enough to break this habit?
It was a rocky start. I would blow, blow, blow, look, look, look completely unaware. Then I would hear that little reminder of “don’t look!” Then the next blow, I would purposefully not look and fold. And the next blow, I would not look and fold. And then I would forget again and start looking. It was a constant process of looking, catching myself, not looking, then forgetting and looking again. You see what I mean about will versus the flesh? The flesh by default will want to do things as it has always done. The will has to overcome the habit in order to stop it, and ultimately, that can only be done by purposefully remembering and being aware of it. I have to be vigilant at all times to make sure that I don’t undo any progress I’ve made by allowing the habits to return without immediately addressing them.
That is true when it comes to breaking all sorts of habits. If our bodies are used to something, the body will naturally want to continue doing something it’s used to. To break the habit, we have to force change. In order to force the change, you have to be aware of what it is you are going to change and be aware when you are doing the act that you want to change.
Don’t get discouraged if you make a mistake a few times. Sometimes it takes a few tries to completely break the habit – especially if it’s a long-held one. But keep trying, knowing that the more you try, the closer you come to completely stopping. The more aware you are of yourself, the easier it will be to catch yourself when you do the act and eventually before you do the act.
I think most importantly, though, is asking the Lord for help. He doesn’t care if you’re trying to break a “small” habit or a “large” one. I keep remembering the saying that “flesh cannot conquer flesh,” meaning we need more than just ourselves if we want to overcome ourselves. The Lord is the one who gives me the little “don’t look” reminders. He is the one that will make me aware of when I am looking. And I take comfort in knowing that with Jesus at my side, I will never, ever look at another used Kleenex again.