How Can We Overcome Our Bad Habits?

Passions, bad habits, are a sickness of the soul, and like any sickness, bad habits intensify, with one bad habit intensifying another. A person’s soul cannot remain static; it is constantly in motion, moving either toward good or toward evil.
Archpriest Victor Potapov | 21 August 2015

At the root of our woes lie our bad habits. Habits (or passions) are never passive. They fight against us, and against our happiness and love. If we do not overcome bad habits, they overcome us.

Who we are and what we do, are not one and the same thing. We want to be charitable, but instead we are greedy. We want to be generous, but we are afraid to be so. We want to be free, but we remain dependent. We want to become stronger and better, but we wreak havoc upon ourselves. We want to forgive, but instead we take offense. We want to rejoice over others’ success, but instead we envy. We want to love others, but instead are jealous of, and hate them.

What, in our better moments, we want to do, is who we are. Deep down inside, we are real, perfect creatures after the likeness of God.

Love lies at the foundation of the very highest expressions of the human soul. The miracle of creative love elevates man above nature. Love turns us into what we are: in our true, normal condition, we love.

What we do not want to do, but yet do, are bad habits or passions. Voluptuousness, laziness, envy, greed, avarice, and miserliness, distrust, lying, selfishness, taking umbrage, enmity, slander, rancor or remembrance of wrongs, dependency on tobacco, narcotics, games, vanity, and other bad habits are in part inherited, and in part are acquired over the course of life.

There is something pleasing or at least entertaining in many bad habits; otherwise, we would not so easily succumb to them. But ultimately, each of those habits interferes with our being what we are, i.e. with being loving creatures. After all, we can understand that love cannot be conjoined with hatred, envy, avarice, etc. If you think that you hate everyone, envy everyone, are sorry for everyone, and that you love only this person, or those three people, you are fooling yourself. Your feeling is not love. To be a loving person is a faculty of the entire, whole person. One cannot be internally divided, for some a loving person, and for others, a mean one.

This is something easily noted in life. As a rule, someone with a real family, a family filled with love, has an excellent, warm relationship not only with his wife, but also with his children, his parents, his friends, and his co-workers. This is because he is a loving person.

If, to the contrary, love for one’s parents and friends is not in evidence, there will be no real love for one’s wife or husband, for [such a person] is a slave to bad habits, to passions. Yes, God can send him a spark of infatuation, of being in love. However, when under close surveillance by bad habits, that spark will soon die out, and will not burst into the flame of true love.

Passions, bad habits, are a sickness of the soul, and like any sickness, bad habits intensify, with one bad habit intensifying another. A person’s soul cannot remain static; it is constantly in motion, moving either toward good or toward evil.

Therefore, to become a true, loving person, one capable of building up and bringing joy to others, it is essential to struggle against one’s bad habits, to overcome one’s passions and not allow new evil habits to appear.

If we do not defeat our habits, they overcome in us all that is good. The province of slaves to bad habits is a twisted attitude towards things, is slavery and suffering.

Anyone can overcome his bad habits. Every believer who has suffered from some passion or from attacks of obsessive thoughts, knows how much prayer helps in that time of trial. However, he also knows that even more helpful than prayer is confession of that passion, followed by Communion of the Holy Gifts of Christ. The Mystery is a miracle! Mankind possesses nothing more powerful in resolving spiritual problems.

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