A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘bad habits

I’m kind of a cautious driver—probably more cautious than other drivers might like. But I get frustrated when people cut me off, tailgate, or expect me to ignore stop signs. I don’t honk the horn or yell or make rude gestures in return, but I do complain in the car. And not always under my breath.

That’s something I’m trying to change.

Recently, my son and I were at a big-box shopping plaza on a Saturday when the driver behind me got upset that I was turning left and she would have to wait to turn right. She began honking her horn, and a couple of other drivers pulled around and made right turns in front of my car. Stressed out, I started to complain about their behaviour as though they could hear me.

My son wisely (if unhelpfully) commented that they couldn’t hear anything I was saying and that complaining wasn’t doing any good.

That day, I decided I wanted—and needed—to break this habit. Even if I struggled to stop complaining, I could at least keep the words in my head. Because sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all, as Sirach 21:26* reminds us:

The mind of fools is in their mouth,

but the mouth of wise men is in their mind.

With my complaining habit, this verse hits home for me, but I’m sure it also strikes those who, like me, have done things like these in conversation:

  • vented to a friend about a mutual friend;
  • complained about the way their spouse carried out a household chore;
  • nagged their children to do their chores or homework without noticing or appreciating what they had done around the house or achieved in class; or
  • “spoken their mind,” to give their honest opinion—without considering how the people they’re talking to might feel.

Taming the tongue is a uphill battle, even for someone who’s motivated to set a better example for their children, whether little ones or teens. But for those who struggle with this as I do, I pray that God would help us keep our sharp criticism and complaints to ourselves and, when it’s necessary, open the door for us to discuss our concerns with kindness instead.

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD,

keep watch over the door of my lips!

~ Psalm 141:3

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)



This morning—well, over the past few days, really—I’ve found myself slipping back into an old habit I spent all of Lent trying to shake.

What I tried to give up for Lent was critical talk, which included unkind words to myself. I found it easier to move past my mistakes when I stopped mentally raking myself over the coals.

yard cleanup

Hours of weeding later…

Yet on Saturday, there I was, chiding myself for so neglecting the garden that it took hours to clean it up. Never mind that I need to simplify the garden a bit since I’m just not as interested in yard work these days and that the weeding and cleanup did get done.

And this morning, as I made some æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) for my son’s multicultural potluck tomorrow, I railed at my failure to produce a decent batch the first time. Never mind that it had been ages since I’d used the recipe, that the treats didn’t need to look perfect, and that I had some icing sugar and delicious berry jam my dad made for dipping them in.

Danish pancake balls

The finished batches of æbleskiver

Sometimes I still have to fight those perfectionistic ways. But I know that when I expect the impossible of myself, I may expect it of other people too, and my relationships can suffer.

Whatever persistent bad habit we may struggle with—negative self-talk, overspending, procrastination, and so on—we need to remember there are no problems we can’t take to God in prayer. He cares about our everyday struggles as much as he does about our crises; as we’re reminded in 1 Peter 5:7*, “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.”

When we spend time with God, we can put our challenges and our failures in perspective. We don’t need to have a black-and-white, all-or-nothing view of ourselves. We aren’t called to become like Jesus in an instant but in a journey as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. A journey God is leading, as the apostle Paul told the church in Philippi and as we read in Philippians 1:6, 9-11:

And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I pray that, whatever habits we want to change, we would never forget this truth: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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