Written by Pastor Soogwan Lee on 2018.09.16, copied and modified the translated version for this post
It is said that faith is a struggle with habit. We all have an undesirable habit. Since it is so difficult to overcome it, sometimes spiritual growth is hindered because of that. This kind of habit tends to be deep-rooted and almost becomes part of ourselves. Often, we think that we conquer it, but then it comes back. After several of these experiences, we become discouraged and can even lose interest in the walk of faith.
Charles Duhigg, a non-Christian, wrote a book titled “The Power of Habit.” This book provides some guidance to overcome the habit. Mr. Duhigg explains how a habit is formed based on the MIT study of brain function. Our brain controls every bit of our behaviour. Let’s say a person gets up in the morning, goes to the bathroom, picks up tooth brush, puts some toothpaste on the toothbrush, and brushes teeth. To perform all these actions, the brain has to move at incredible speed. The brain needs to know how to get out of bed to balance the floor, which direction is the bathroom, and where toothbrush and toothpaste are.
However, for the brain to do all this work, it is too tiresome. Therefore, our brain continuously looks for ways to manage things more efficiently. Any repeated activity is stored in the basal ganglia, and whenever a similar situation happens, this stored behaviour pattern kicks in to save the brain’s function. It is the secret of habit. In summary, habit is formed by a fixed loop of Cue, Routine, and Reward.
For example, a person who works in an office may feel tired around 3 pm. (Cue) Then, he goes to the vending machine in the cafeteria, buys chocolate chip cookies and reads magazines there. (Routine) Then, he feels refreshed. (Reward) As this pattern continues, these three actions lodge in his basal ganglia, and it becomes his habit, and he gains weight without realizing it. The author claims that to change the undesirable habit, we need to know the cue and reward first. As we identify those when the cue comes, we can switch to a different routine (a more desirable behaviour patterns) to gain the same reward. This is the way to change a habit.
If someone goes to a bar to vent out (Routine) whenever he worries about something (Cue) and receives comfort (Reward), he can go to house church and share instead. Then, he learns that he gets similar kinds of reward, and with this realization, he can change his alcohol dependency.
However, the habit may not break so easily, even following the author’s suggestion. That is because he does not consider the presence of evil spirit, which works in tandem with our undesirable habit. That is why spiritual warfare is necessary through prayer and fasting. If we grieve over our bad habit, ask for God’s help, understand precisely what is cue and reward, change to a more desirable behaviour pattern, and share this in house church to receive prayer and encouragement, then the bondage of bad habit can be broken.