9 Strategies to Help You Fight Habitual Sin
- Aaron D'Anthony Brown Contributing Author
- 2023 10 Aug
Sin exists in some shape or form in all of our lives. As Scripture states, “ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). His Word also helps us understand that we won’t be sinless in this world, but we can in the next (Isaiah 25:8). This means that if all people in this fallen world have a relationship with sin, then no matter how hard we try, we will each have our own struggles until the day we die. For some of us though, we gravitate towards specific sins time and time again. Thus, certain sins become habitual.
In order to understand habitual sin, we need to understand two words: sin and habit.
Habit is characterized by a repeated thought or action that becomes natural. When we can do something without thinking, we’ve formed a habit. An example would be going through your morning routine, something you can do without mapping every step.
In Scripture, Jesus defines sin as “So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.” (James 4:17). We know the godlier choice, but we pick the opposite instead – the classic spirit versus flesh scenario. When a sin becomes habitual, the same scenario gets played out over and over. That’s when we’ve become accustomed to making choices that please the flesh, not the spirit. Sin has become the natural response.
If this describes you, don’t be dismayed. With the various depictions of sin in the Bible, there are also plenty of affirmations that sin can be overcome.
“I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
As someone who has been addicted to porn since he was a little boy, I can say with confidence, that there is hope. Change is hard, but change is possible. Over the course of my journey, I’ve learned a great deal about myself, the world, and God. Though the road has been long, the trip has been life-changing.
Now, I write to you with strategies learned through experience, through recovery groups, fellow sinners, counseling, and the Bible itself. Here are 9 strategies to help you fight habitual sin.
1. Be Honest
This cliche reigns true – the first step toward change is admitting you have a problem. That’s part of the mantra that Alcoholics Anonymous espouses. When you can be honest with yourself and with others, that’s when progress begins. No addict conquers addiction without first acknowledging the addiction. No sinner can conquer themselves without first acknowledging their struggle.
2. Know Your Why
Why do you want to change? The answer may seem obvious, but this often gets overlooked. Why do you really want to change? Knowing God hates sin is not always enough to break habits. If that knowledge was enough, we wouldn’t sin in any way.
Instead of your why being abstract, find a more concrete goal. Cutting back compulsive spending will save you money. Scaling back on how much you eat will improve your health. All the while, you’ll be improving your relationship with yourself and with God, and depending on your habit, with other people.
3. Form Good Habits
As Craig Perra likes to say, “In order to break a habit, you have to make a habit.” If we do manage to cut back on a certain sin, that time and energy has to be sent somewhere else. What will you do instead? Substituting one sin for another leaves you in the same position.
Here’s another option – try ditching your sin for something that builds virtue instead. Don’t drive by that donut shop on your way home. Head to the gym. When you get home from school, don’t fall into the snare of social media. Grab a book or go for a walk.
4. Build Introspection
When we are used to a particular sin, we often don’t think before we act. We simply act. If we can be more mindful of our thoughts and behaviors, we can catch the sin before it occurs. Jennie Allen talks in her book about catching anxious thoughts before we are sent on an emotional spiral. The same logic applies to other sins. The more self-reflective we are, the faster we can spot sin before it takes root.
5. Set Limits
Scripture admonishes us to flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6:18). One way to do this is by setting new boundaries in your life. If you struggle with alcohol, don’t keep any inside the house. Staying up late and on unfiltered internet is unwise for those struggling with porn. With new limits can come new possibilities.
6. Seek Accountability
There’s wisdom in knowing iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). While we don’t have to struggle with a sin to offer advice, those who have been in our position can definitely relate most. Not all bad habits require accountability, but having a physical reminder that someone is watching often offers powerful motivation. You can then talk to them about your progress and strategize on areas of improvement.
7. Pray Often
In addition to the aid we can find with people, there’s even more support God has to offer (James 1:5). We pray not to inform God of our struggles, but rather to have God continue to shape us into the image of Christ. The more we pray, the more we can glean from His wisdom. Moreover, if we’re constantly talking to God, recognizing His presence will lead us away from sin.
8. Cultivate Self-Reliance
If you’re expecting God or anyone else to make you do the right thing, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There is wisdom in the saying the opposite of addiction is connection. However, you have to plan for the times when connection isn’t possible. Sometimes your prayers will seem meaningless, and your accountability partners will for some reason be absent. That’s why you need a plan in place when you feel on your own. Set those reminders in place that remind you why you’re changing.
9. Keep Hope Alive
If you’ve been struggling with something since you were a child, don’t be surprised if you can’t stop in a day. Just think, years of your life have been spent in sin. Your formative years were in part spent developing something that’s ungodly. Now you’re an adult and seeking to change. Is that realistic? Yes, but the change takes time. How do you know? Scripture says so!
“I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Don’t abandon your hope for a newer, better version of yourself!
Change is hard. There are fewer things that are harder. But that also means there are fewer worthwhile things. If you’ve failed recently, don’t give up. If you fail later today, do not give up. There is hope.
Note your mess-up. Make a plan. Set the plan in motion. And keep fighting.
God has granted us free will, and He won’t make us change. Other people may offer support, but they can’t force us to behave. Change is up to us. Change is something we have to decide on, and believe within.
No matter how many times you fail, and no matter how far, keep hope alive. God is with you!
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/francescoch
Aaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”
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