This happens so often: the simplest idea is the most powerful.
One challenge I have experienced in working with incarcerated folks and their families is how often we have heard a "I won't do that any more" response to some of life's most painful consequences.
And I get it. When someone I love is dealing with making the same mistake for the 47th time after the 46th serious kick-in-the-butt repercussion, I do shake my head in wonder that they seem to think doing a thing more often is going to make it LESS painful and damaging.
But this I have learned: NOT doing something is just crazy hard! The more I think about not embracing my favorite foolish compulsion the more I am attracted to the sizzle, the numbing, the distraction of the crazy behavior. Really, have you ever tried not thinking about a chocolate eclair?
So when I need to change a consistently destructive, repetitive, behavior I need to change my approach. Here is what I have experienced:
1. When I am serious about stopping a pain inducing behavior I consider when and where I am most tempted. When I'm trying to develop healthier eating habits it is not the time for a girls' lunch out at our favorite exotic bakery. This is one reason I am so frustrated that we have lost the art of inviting folks over for a meal! Restaurants are expensive and rarely have much in the way of clean eating options. If they do, it if often takes conversations with servers and checking with the kitchen to "see what they can do" and I've now become a food diva rather than a modest eater of healthier, cleaner food. So maybe I just need to take a walk with you where we can stop and talk together rather than eating out this week. Are you OK with that?
2. I need to PLAN to do something different. Especially with eating or controlling behaviors, it is not always something you can STOP, but rather something we need to CHANGE. This is tough because becoming a fanatic baseball fan when your family has pleaded with you not to be "out of circulation" for the entire football season is truly not an improvement. So maybe I can pack a healthier lunch and take the kids to the park to eat. Or I can find a low-income sports program where the entire family can volunteer. In short, it is better to DO than to try to NOT DO.
3. The problem with being a chocoholic is that chocolate is EVERYWHERE and often when someone wants to "treat me" it includes chocolate. I need to speak truth to friends, asking them to help me make better choices. As a passionate baker I appreciate what a gift this is and how hard it can be to identify other ways to be thoughtful and supportive. So I need to be vocally enthusiastic about my healthy eating goals and passionately thank folks for being willing to change their behaviors in honor of my needs. (And when they fail consider cutting modest pieces and sharing them with neighbors or dropping the whole thing off at the local fire station or nursing home.)
I think this is why St. Paul ended this chapter with this: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (acts)