Monday, November 21, 2005

Behavior watch: Old habits don't die. They hibernate.

This is not encouraging news, except for Christians.

Habitual activity--smoking, eating fatty foods, gambling--changes neural activity patterns in a specific region of the brain when habits are formed. These neural patterns created by habit can be changed or altered. But when a stimulus from the old days returns, the dormant pattern can reassert itself, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, putting an individual in a neural state akin to being on autopilot.

So why is this not as problematical for Christians?

There are two reasons. First, and most important, Christians who know and experience the healing power of Christ often lay aside behaviors that have defined their life until the moment of salvation. No need for testimonies here. The New Testament is already full of them. And so are most churches.

Second, there is a teaching that we are to "take captive every thought," which may have been one of St. Paul's most valuable insights into human behavior. It's not news: nearly all behavior begins by thinking about it. What we do with an idea determines our behavior. We have little control over what happens to us, but a lot of control over how we respond.

If the Devil made you do it, you blew it.

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