Everyone has bad habits. Some people are forever running late. Others bite their nails. Still others possess a tendency to leave things until the very last minute or struggle to manage their resources effectively. For most people, these bad habits are of minimal concern until those habits negatively affect the person’s daily life. Yes, they know that it is inconsiderate to be tardy all the time or that chewing their nails is an easy way to get sick, but breaking habits is difficult and requires a great deal of willpower and time. As such, most people do not bother dealing with their bad habits until they have to do so. They will work on being on time when they miss an important event or are passed over for a promotion. They will try to stop biting their nails after they get the flu for the fourth time in a year. They will stop gossiping when they lose a friend over their words.While this attitude toward bad habits is common, this way of thinking allows for the unseen damage caused by bad habits to fester without interference, sometimes for years. One of the things most likely to be impacted by these years spent ignoring bad habits is a person’s relationship with God. This can happen in a variety of ways, and the severity of the impact will vary based on the previous strength of the person’s faith and the type of bad habit. That said, most of the ways bad habits can keep a person from God can be grouped together into a few categories based on what the habits are doing to a person’s relationship with God.
Distracting YouDepending on what bad habit a person possesses, the habit could easily become a distraction that keeps a person from focusing on God. A person who is constantly on their smartphone, for example, would not be paying attention during church services. They might also not be involved in volunteering or working toward the betterment of others. When a bad habit is something that consumes a person’s focus, they are not thinking about God.
Bad habits can also distract a person from God by causing the person to squander time that could be spent focusing on God. Someone who binge watches hours upon hours of Netflix every night, for example, could have watched an episode or two of their favorite show and spent some time with Scripture rather than falling into the bad habit of watching too much Netflix.
Encouraging ImmoralityWhile bad habits may not be immoral on their own, they can easily lead a person down an immoral path. Someone with a tendency to be tardy may begin lying to friends, family members or coworkers in an effort to excuse their tardiness. A person who is on social media all the time may become obsessed with their own appearance and either become vain or harm their body in an effort to “improve” their looks. Neither using social media nor running late is inherently immoral, but both bad habits can easily lead to a person taking part in more sinful behaviors.
Decreasing ThankfulnessBad habits can quickly sap gratitude out of a person’s life as the problems the habits cause start to build up. Someone who spends too much time binge watching Netflix may find that they never manage to finish all the chores necessary to keep their house clean. So, they get irritated at themselves or the world when bugs start coming into the house. A person who chews their fingernails may get sick far more often than their coworkers. The build-up of missed work and hours spent laying miserably in bed with a fever can make it difficult for a person to focus on the blessings in their life. This inability to see the good can in turn lead them to feeling a distinct lack of gratitude for their blessings or even a sense that they have been abandoned by God when really it is their own habits causing problems.
Illusions of ControlHumans really have very limited control over the world, but bad habits can give people false ideas about how much control they have over their lives. Someone who successfully breaks a bad habit that has held serious sway over their life might come to believe that they can control everything that happens to their life. This, of course, is false. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, a person who is struggling to break a bad habit might feel that God has abandoned them because He is not breaking their bad habit despite their prayers. In this situation, the person may well be ignoring the many chances God had given them to break their habit or is hoping for a purely miraculous cure rather than being willing to put in the hard work to break the habit on their own.
Harming OthersSome bad habits do limited damage to the person but still manage to hurt others. Gossip, for example, does little to harm the person doing the gossiping. Those cruel words, however, hurt others. Similarly, gleefully joining a social media-fueled digital lynch mob does little damage to the person behind the keyboard who is typing out insult after insult. That same mob, however, can destroy another person’s self-esteem or even hurt their livelihood. Bad habits such as distracted driving can even kill another person. Causing harm to others, of course, hurts a person’s own relationship with God.
Bad habits are not just a problem when they begin to adversely affect a person’s daily life. Even before those habits cause visible problems, they may be keeping a person from God. No one is perfect and everyone has bad habits, but there is no reason to allow bad habits to do serious harm to a person’s spiritual life. Reexamine any bad habits, and take necessary action before the damage is done.