Rich Paxson

What once was a safety line or a lifeline, can, under new circumstances, bring harm, not security, into one’s life. For example, unorthodox eating patterns that may have been healthy as an adolescent when carried unaltered into later life may be related to obesity or bulimia. When ‘bad habit’ patterns first come together, they meet some real or perceived need, which allows the person to see these practices as lifelines. It’s the personal perception that counts, whether or not the underlying reasoning, or lack thereof, is warranted.

Perhaps the phrase ‘old habits die hard’ sums up the idea that what met a real need at one time can later become a knotty problem, not the solution. For example, lying and deceit may protect a child in an abusive parent-child relationship. When such a pattern of lying and deceit lives beyond the abusive relationship, those behaviors become at best self-defeating and at worst self-destructive.

We need to look at the way our present habits, developed in us through past interactions with the social other, affect our openness to a new relationship with the Other other. We need to recognize that our social other conditioned past is behind us and become open to new growth into a future facilitated by the Other other. Our turning points may be dramatic, ‘road to Damascus’ moments, or they may come upon us gradually. In either case, we need to decide to turn, to repent, to trust in God’s grace, no longer driven by social other approval.