How To Get Rid Of Bad Habits Now!
Love The Sinner
And The Saint Within
Do You Want To Get Rid Of Your Destructive Bad Habits?
Would you believe?
I’ve been preaching for 27 years now.
And in the first fifteen years of my preaching ministry, from 1979 to 1994, I never once preached about “loving yourself”. If you doubt me, look at my preaching notes and you’ll find nothing of this idea. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Why?
Because I felt that loving oneself was another way of saying “selfishness”. So if you told me that I would one day write an article about loving yourself, I would call you nuts. “Blasphemy!” I’d say to you with the vehemence of a snorting bull.
That’s how I interpreted what Jesus said in the Bible, “If you want to be my disciple, carry your cross, deny yourself, and follow me.” Because Jesus wanted us to die to ourselves, how could I tell people to love themselves? Isn’t that the very opposite of what Jesus wanted us to do?
Here was my belief then: The SELF was the enemy of GOD. So why love it?
So I told people to forget their own needs—even their basic, valid, legitimate needs. For if Jesus gave His life on the cross for us, how can we not do otherwise?
I Was Trying To Love God—
But I Felt Miserable.
What Was I Doing Wrong?
But along the way, I got into trouble.
I was trying to love God, but it was as though I was bumping on a brick wall. I failed and I couldn’t understand why I was so miserable. I’d given up everythingfor Him, so why did I feel empty and disconnected?
And here was my bigger problem: Why was I still enslaved by various hidden addictions?
Along the way, I also met a lot of good people like myself. Good, wonderful, spiritual people who wanted to follow God all the way. But they too were mired in hang-ups and addictions that made them discombobulated.
Was Christian life this… bad?
What was wrong with us?
And then there were my special “visitations of God”.
Supernatural moments in prayer that blew me away. These were specific times when I felt God pierce through my belief system—where He would just love me. No ifs, no buts, no conditions. He would love me as is, where is. I would feel so loved, I couldn’t understand it.
And to my horror, it was as though He was inviting me to love myself as well, as is, where is. Naturally, I couldn’t understand it. It went against my rigid legalistic theology and so I would “cast out” that inner voice. Wasn’t I the enemy? Wasn’t I the sinner that needed to be disciplined, chastised, and punished? What was this idea of “just loving myself as is, where is”?
But as the years went by, I began to understand.
It took another ten years—from 1990 to 2000—for this healing to happen…
There Was No SELF To Deny!
Slowly, I understood why I couldn’t love God.
How could I deny myself when I didn’t have a SELF?
How could I die to myself if nothing was alive in me?
How could I give up if there was nothing to give up?
Let me explain: Deep within, I was so broken. I never valued myself. I never felt good about myself. I was filled with shame. So to cover my shame, I’d try to be good. To fill up my need for love, I tried to love God. But the more I tried, the more empty I felt…
Today, I realized that I can never give what I don’t have.
I can’t love God—or anyone else for that matter—if I didn’t first love ME.
My favorite verse in the Bible? We love because He first loved us.That is so true! The only way I can love God is if I receive His love for me. And it is His powerful love that will reconstruct me. Only then can I love Him.
This is the lesson we get from Judas Iscariot…
Why Don’t We Pray To St. Judas Iscariot?
Have you ever asked this question?
Because in your mind, you take it for granted that Judas is rotting in Hell.
Because he betrayed Jesus big time.
I beg to differ.
Whether or not Judas is rotting in Hell is another question I dare not answer. But I have an answer to the question why Catholics don’t pray to St. Judas Iscariot. No, it’s not because he betrayed Jesus.
Because if you open your Bible, you realize it is filled to the brim with betrayers and murderers and adulterers and liars and deceivers and connivers and cheats… The reason why Catholics don’t pray to a St. Judas Iscariot is simple: Because Judas didn’t allow God to love him. (By the way, I’m not sharing to you something I picked up from the Catechism or from a doctrine. This is merely my very strong personal belief.)
That was precisely the message of the story of Peter’s denials. He betrayed Jesus too (and three times at that!), but ended up the first Pope. Why?
Because Peter loved the sinner and the saint within. He repented, forgave himself, and went back to God.
Judas didn’t. Instead, he killed himself. The Bible says, So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Judas didn’t become a canonized saint not because he betrayed Jesus. Judas didn’t become a canonized saint because he didn’t learn to receive God’s love.
Thus, he never learned how to love himself.
Are You Killing Yourself?
In my last article, I said, Don’t focus on your addiction.
Because when you focus on your addiction, you end up in despair.
And despair is the end of the road.
Like Judas, many people commit some type of suicide. They may not kill themselves physically, but in their despair, they kill their dreams, or they kill their relationships, or they kill the blessings that God wants to give to them.
You need to acknowledge your addiction (don’t deny it), but you don’t have to meditate on it. Your eyes should be on God’s love for you.
Focus on God’s dream for you instead.
And you can do that if you love yourself.
Loving yourself means loving the sinner and the saint within you.
You’re a mix of the good and the bad, and you need to love that mix.
Unless You Love Yourself,
You Jump From One Hidden Addiction To Another
Unless this happens, your addictions may never go away.
When we don’t love ourselves, our love tanks cause painful emotions to rise. So we may stop one addiction only to replace it with another, perhaps a more hidden addiction. I know of some former drinkers and smokers who, after removing these vices, unconsciously replaced them with more acceptable addictions, like workaholism and religious legalism, or a food addiction or TV addiction.
If you want to get rid of a destructive bad habit, you need to love yourself.
How should you love yourself?
How should you love the saint and sinner within?
Let me share with you four powerful ways of loving yourself that will change your life forever:
1. Forgive Yourself
2. Accept Your Weaknesses
3. Feel Your Feelings
4. Trust Your Needs
Let me share these with you one by one…
1. Forgive Yourself
For years, I would fall into habitual sexual sins. And when I did, I had a hard time believing that God would still forgive me. I was filled with disgust. I was so fed up with my sin, I figured He was fed up with me too. I projected onto Him my disgust and imagined that He was tired of forgiving me again and again.
Yet every time I prayed, something in me would say, “God isn’t like that.” And deeper in my heart, I would hear His voice say, “Bo, nothing you do can ever diminish my love for you.”
These words burned within me. I searched the Bible and found these words…and claimed them for myself.
For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
I am he that blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Ultimately, it was this incredible love that healed me of my addiction.
Can You Be As Forgiving To Yourself?
In one large gathering, a young woman came up to me and asked, “Can you hear my confession?” I shook my head, “I’m sorry, I’m not a priest.” But I saw desperation in her eyes as she told me, “But can I still confess my sins to you?”
“I can listen to you, pray for you, but I can’t absolve your sins,” I said.
She said, “That’s fine. I just need someone to talk to…” We walked to a corner of the hall and she poured her heart to me, sharing her guilt to me. As she did so, I felt an urging from God to tell her, “My dear friend, God loves you more than you can ever imagine,” and she began to cry almost uncontrollably.
She said, “Bo, I know God loves me. But I don’t love myself. I know God forgives me. But I can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done.”
Through the years, I’ve met many people like her who already asked for God’s forgiveness, but can’t seem to forgive themselves. Even if the Bible says, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful, it’s funny how people aren’t merciful to themselves.
So I told her, “Then you’re very proud of your sin.”
Her eyes bulged, obviously shocked.
“What did you say again?” she asked.
Are You Proud Of Your Sin?
I told her, “You fall into pride on three counts. First, you seem to think that your sin is bigger than God’s love for you. That’s pride. Friend, God’s love is bigger than your sin…”
“And second, you seem to think that your moral standards are higher than God’s standards. That’s pride. Allow Him to love you in your brokenness. And give yourself permission to love YOU. And third…”
“Did I hear it right? Give myself permission to love me?”
I knew that those words were new to her.
“Yes! And third, all this time, you’ve been focusing on your sin. Am I right?”
“You think God wants you to grieve and wallow in guilt? You’re wrong. When you focus on your sin, you’re not focusing on God. Focus on God. Focus on God’s love for you. Or you fall into despair.” I began to think of Judas and how despair killed him.
The Bible says Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
How do we fall? Let me count the ways…
What Happens If You Don’t Forgive Yourself
If you don’t forgive yourself, you may have these problems…
o You’ll have unresolved guilt nagging you
o You’ll always be recalling past failures
o You’ll be pessimistic and negative, or even suffer from chronic depression
o You’ll be seeking revenge toward yourself at different times
o You’ll manifest self-destructive behaviors.
o You’ll be disrespectful towards yourself
o You’ll be indifferent toward yourself and your needs
o You’ll be defensive and exhibit distant behavior towards others
o You’ll be controlled by your fear of failure, rejection, and non-approval
o You’ll have an emotional vacuum in which little or no emotions are shown
o You’ll be suspicious about others’ motives when they’re accepting of you
o You’ll experience chronic hostility, sarcasm, and cynicism
It is a sad life!
Make a decision now to forgive yourself now.
Before Anything Else, Discern:
Are They Real Sins Or Imagined Sins?
Before we even forgive ourselves—or even ask forgiveness from God—answer one question. Have you really sinned against God? Or have you just failed someone else’s standards?
Sometimes, we can set up our selves for big-time guilt by making lots of rules that God never wanted us to make.
For example, in the 1980’s, I used to teach my community members this spiritual regimen: To pray one hour a day, read the Bible one hour a day, and read other spiritual books one hour a day—for a total of 3 hours a day. I also encouraged them to go for daily Mass, daily Rosary, and an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. I was still a young teen then, and I could certainly do all of that, but I was oblivious to the fact that my members had jobs and kids to take care of. Boy, did I set them up for a very long guilt trip! (Forgive me, Lord.) None of them could ever measure up to my standards. But those rules that I made were just mine, not God’s rules. (Leaders need to be careful not to set people up to discouragement, or we rob them of joy in their life with God.)
I also remember a woman who felt guilty for disappointing her husband again and again. She would constantly ask for forgiveness from God for being a terrible wife. But when she described her husband to me, I instantly knew that he was the problem. He wanted his clothes to be pressed in a particular way, his egg cooked in a particular way, his newspaper laid out on the table each morning in a particular way. And if his wife will not do it in this particular way, he labelled her as a disappointing wife. Not true! I told her that she has not sinned and there was nothing to ask forgiveness from God.
But if we have indeed sinned against God, then let us take these next two steps…
Forgive Yourself Now!
Place your hands on your chest.
Step #1: Ask God For Forgiveness
Lord, forgive me now, in Jesus name. Forgive me for all my sins and failures. I believe You love me. I believe that Your love is bigger than my sins and failures. Today, I receive your forgiveness. Thank you for loving me!
Step #2: Forgive Yourself
Today, I make a choice to forgive ME. I know that God has forgiven me. I don’t have to be perfect for me to love ME. I am a very good person because God made me very good. As God loves me, so do I love ME. I no longer need to condemn me. I am forgiven by God, and I forgive ME, in Jesus name. Amen.
Let’s now move to the second step of loving yourself…
2. Accept Your Weaknesses
What’s the difference between forgiving yourself and accepting your weakness?
Answer: We only forgive ourselves for our sin. We don’t forgive ourselves for being weak. Because being weak isn’t a sin. It’s part of being a human being.
Let me give you an analogy. I know of some parents who scold (note: scream) at their kids for being noisy and playful. At moments like these, I want to intervene and say, “Mother, listen to yourself. You’re actually angry at them for being kids?”
That’s what we do too to ourselves. Because we are our harshest critics.
If you want to love yourself, you need to celebrate who you are—your strengths and weaknesses combined. Especially your weaknesses!
Fire Your Inner Parrot
Let me tell you a story.
On her way home, a woman was walking on the sidewalk. She saw a parrot in a pet shop window. Upon seeing her, the parrot said, “Lady, you are really ugly!”
Shocked, the woman walked away in a huff.
The next day, she walked again on the same road. She saw again the parrot peering through the pet shop window. And sure enough, when the parrot saw her, it said, “Lady, you are really ugly!”
The woman couldn’t take it anymore. She barged in the pet shop and told the owner, “Your bird outside has been telling me that I’m ugly. You better do something about that parrot. When I walk here tomorrow, and that bird says the same thing about me, I’ll sue you!” The owner was very apologetic and said, “It won’t happen again, Ma’am.”
The next day, she walked home on that same road. Once again, she sees the parrot, and the parrot sees her. She stopped and with an icy stare asked, “Yes?”
The bird, strutting back and forth, cocked, “You know.”
You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Love Yourself
Friends, many of us have an inner parrot that tells us, “You’re ugly.”
We have an inner parrot that we carry around within us, cruel and rude. We actually don’t need the devil anymore to accuse us and damn us to Hell. Because we do it ourselves.
These feelings of shame drive us to our addictions.
Friend, fire your inner parrot. (Better yet, fry him with olive oil, a little garlic, and chilli.)
Start telling yourself the truth: That you’re God’s child and beautiful beyond imagination. And that God will use even your worst weaknesses.
Remember: You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
Your Weakness Is A Gift
In the Bible, St. Paul boasted of his “Thorn in the Flesh”.
It was his weakness. Bible scholars don’t know what it was, but here are some intelligent guesses:
o sexual desires
o physical appearance
o eyesight trouble
o chronic malaria fever
But whatever it was, about this weakness, he said these immortal, mind-boggling words. “At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”
How can your weakness be gift?
Your Weakness Blesses You In 3 Great Ways
First, my weaknesses humble me. It makes me depend on God even more. And I see how He uses me mightily despite all my weaknesses! That is why the Bible says, God chooses what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful.
Second, my weaknesses make me more merciful towards others. I believe that someone who easily judges others hasn’t yet accepted his own weaknesses. If he had, he wouldn’t be judgmental. But because he hasn’t, he projects his self-anger towards other people.
Third, my weaknesses bond me with others in a way that nothing else can. When I share the story of my past and my addiction to someone else, I disrobe my defences and become vulnerable to him. In this way, I also give permission to that person to disrobe his defences as well.
Friend, thank God for your weaknesses, your struggles, and your problems.
They are great gifts that will bless you and others.
Let’s now go to the third way of loving yourself.
3. Feel Your Feelings
A long time ago, I didn’t feel my feelings. I didn’t bother with them. If they became intense, I shunned them.
To me, all desires were sinful. And all emotions were just part of the “flesh”, not of the “spirit”. Feelings were the enemies of God. At the very least, they were bothersome things that distracted me from doing God’s will.
No wonder I was in such an internal mess!
Because when we don’t feel our feelings, we treat ourselves with disrespect!
I was acting very rudely towards myself.
My Love Tank was empty because I wasn’t loving myself enough to even listen to my feelings. Remember: Feelings are the windows of the soul. When I wasn’t feeling my feelings, I didn’t have a clue what was happening inside me.
Again, self was an enemy of God, so why bother?
Just focus on God’s Word, and viola, everything will be solved, right?
How wrong I was.
Because God was speaking to me through my most negative emotions, and I wasn’t listening.
Identify Your Feeling;
And Identify The Source Of Your Feelings
Sometimes, I can’t even identify what I was feeling.
I just knew it was a bad feeling—that’s why I was running away from it.
I didn’t know if it was sadness or fear or worry or anger.
But when I run away from my bad feelings, I run away from myself.
Today, I know what to do.
I sit down, be quiet for a while, and identify what I feel. I don’t just go rushing about in my busy day.
When I identify it, then I feel the feeling. I feel it before God’s Presence.
I also try to identify the source of these feelings.
Why am I feeling this way?
Is there any action that I need to do?
Sometimes, this first step of “feeling my feelings” is all that’s needed. I don’t have to do anything else.
By feeling what I feel, I respect myself.
By feeling what I feel, I heal myself.
It may take time for the painful feelings to pass, but ultimately, I rise from it whole and peaceful.
Sometimes, I have to do something else. Perhaps I need to surrender to God. Perhaps I need to do something concrete, like talk to someone or solve a problem.
In the End,
You Still Do What God Wants You To Do
No, I’m not supposed to follow my feelings blindly.
That’s from the crazy guys that preach, “Do what you feel. If you feel like punching someone, then punch a pillow or wall. If you feel like screaming, then go inside your room and scream like hell. If you want to get drunk, then drink…” I don’t buy that strategy.
I didn’t say, “Do what you feel.” I said, “Feel what you feel.”
When you feel your feelings before the Presence of God’s love, in the end, you still do what God wants you to do. But you allowed yourself to feel your painful feelings, to validate them, and to listen to its inner messages.
This is a very important step of loving yourself.
Remember what I said about the immediate cause of our addictions? Because we want to escape our painful emotions.
But by entering into our painful feelings with boldness, we realize that they’re not as terrifying as we feared them to be. After awhile, we no longer need our addictions. Because we no longer need escape routes from our painful emotions.
Finally, we come to the fourth step of loving ourselves.
4. Trust Your Needs
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been taught by my brand of religion not to trust my feelings—and not to trust my needs as well. Because I figured my desires are most likely from the flesh, not from the spirit.
The message I received was this: “Fear yourself. Fear your desires. Fear your selfishness. Don’t trust yourself. Instead, trust God. Trust your group. Trust your leader. Trust the system…” (This is the reason why there is so much spiritual abuse happening in religious groups.)
Oh, what a terrible thing to believe!
Priests, preachers, and pastors love to emphasize this message: “Don’t trust yourself!” Directly or indirectly, they will ask their members to simply rely in the leaders’ wisdom and decisions. Unintentionally, they produce people who are infants in their emotional and spiritual growth.
Instead of freedom, religion shackles us to immaturity. (God calls us to be childlike, not childish.)
God Trusts You—
When Will You Learn To Trust You?
Instead, we need to hear a new message.
What message? That You’re made in the image and likeness of God! That you’re not just good. You’re very good! So trust yourself because God trusts you. He trusts you by calling you His child. He trusts you by planting His Kingdom in you. He trusts you by dwelling within you. He trusts you by commissioning you to be His presence in the world. He trusts you to love the way He does…”
Wow! (Believe me, when I pray, when I read the Bible, when I listen to God’s voice in the depths of my heart, I say “Wow!” many, many times.)
And one way of trusting yourself is to trust your needs.
Not your sinful needs. (That’s what you need to deny.) But your legitimate, valid, and God-planted needs.
Meet those needs. Even your need for joy.
Some people view all pleasure as bad. Their unwritten motto: “If it feels good, it must be bad.” That’s not true.
I believe life was given by God to be enjoyed to the full. To be savoured with delight. So taste. Breathe. Relish. Dance. Sing. Live!
When we enjoy life, we allow others to enjoy as well. (Ever wondered why some religious people are so stuck-up, they don’t allow anyone to enjoy life?)
What is Draining You?
Get Rid Of It If You Can.
I don’t intend to write a complete list of how you need to care for yourself. (I’ll do that in another article.)
But here’s a question I want you to ask yourself: What is draining you?
What person, thing, activity, group, habit, situation, and places in your life drains your joy and life and energy and holiness? What sucks your happiness?
If you can get rid of that draining thing, do so!
By doing that, you’ll grow up and have more life and energy for the right things that God wants you to do.
In other words, I’m asking you to set your boundaries.
Let me list the probable “draining” things in your life…
1. Take care of your emotional health.
o I spend a lot of time with “emotional vampires”—people who are so dependent on me, or those who are exceedingly negative, or those who emotionally manipulate me…
o I still hang on to a dead-end romantic relationship
o I don’t have close friends
o I watch too much TV
o I don’t have time just to rest and reflect, to read and plan
2. Take care of your family life
o My relationship with my spouse and kids is shallow
o I have a long-standing conflict with a family member
o My home environment is chaotic
o I feel I’m not a great mother (father, son, daughter…)
3. Take care of your professional life
o I don’t enjoy my job
o I feel that I’m not fulfilling my mission in my job
o I feel that my core gifts can be used elsewhere
o I can no longer work with my co-workers
o I don’t see a future in my career
4. Take care of your physical health
o I don’t eat the right food
o I don’t sleep enough
o I don’t exercise enough
o I have a vice that’s robbing me of my health
5. Take care of your financial health
o I let “parasites” depend on me instead of letting them stand on their own
o I have huge debts
o I pay my bills late
o I don’t know where my money is going each month
o I don’t have savings and investment plan
o I know I won’t have enough for my retirement and old age
6. Take care of your spiritual health
o I’m in bondage to an addiction that’s draining me spiritually
o I focus on my sin, not on God’s love for me
o I don’t spend time with God
o I lack a faith community of friends to support me
o I feel I’m not following my own moral compass
o I feel I’m not serving God and others
If you checked any of the items above, do something about it! Ask for help.
But don’t get drained to the point that there’s nothing to give anymore.
Love The Sinner And The Saint Within
We’re tempted to only see the sinner in us.
Remind yourself that there’s a saint in you too.
Last July, I had a few birthday parties among close friends.
It has been our tradition that we honor birthday celebrants—so it was my turn to be in the hot seat.
I have to be honest with you. It’s always unnerving to be honored by friends for an hour—but after awhile, I felt my Love Tank filled up.
For example, one friend recalled how I helped him during a time of need. (I did? Really?) Another friend shared how she was so touched by my compassion. Another friend honored me for how I stood by him even when everyone else rejected him.
I wish the Preacher In Blue Jeans camera was on! (That’s my Reality TV show on the internet. You can watch my shows for FREE at www.preacherinbluejeans.com) Too bad it wasn’t. No, not so that you would hear their honoring. But so that I could replay them and I could hear them again—especially during times of self-doubt. When I feel bad. When I feel I’m not worthy. (Yes, I go through those times.)
This is a universal experience.
Let me end by sharing a beautiful story I read in the Chicken Soup series…
Remind Yourself That You’re A Saint Within
One day, a teacher asked her students in class to write the names of the other students on a piece of paper. “And leave space between each name,” she instructed.
When they finished, the teacher said, “Underneath each name, I want you to write the good things you see in that person.” Immediately, the kids busied themselves with the task and took the whole class to finish it.
The teacher took the papers home and collated the material. On one piece of paper per child, she wrote all the positive qualities written by their classmates.
On the next class, she handed out the papers to the kids. They were very happy to read the letters. “Wow, am I really this person?” some of them gushed.
Many, many years later, the teacher received a phone call. One of her former students, who had become a soldier, was killed in battle. Would she want to attend the funeral?
She went and saw many of her former students condoling with the bereaved family. As she stood beside the coffin, looking at the lifeless body of a young man in uniform inside, a middle-aged woman approached her. “Are you my son’s grade school teacher?”
“Yes,” she said, “you must be his mother. My deepest condolences.”
“I’d like to show something to you,” the mother said. “My son had this inside his wallet when he died.” She pulled out a worn-out piece of paper. It was obvious that it had been folded and unfolded many times.
Even before it was opened, the teacher already knew what it was. It was the piece of paper that contained the list of positive qualities his classmates saw in him. Kept and read all through the years.
By that time, her other students had gathered around both of them.
A young man beside the teacher said, “Uh, I carry mine wherever I go too.”
A woman from behind said, “I still keep mine. It’s in my diary.”
Another man said, “I display my list on my desk at home.”
Another woman said, “It seems like all of us kept that paper all these years!”
The teacher was moved beyond words.
Why would a simple piece of paper mean so much?
Because here’s the truth: Life can be rough. At various time, it can even be cruel. Every time we fail, every time we receive criticism, every time we get rejected, we doubt our worth. We doubt our goodness.
We are very desperate for love.
We need to love the saint within us.
Friend, love yourself.
Each day, celebrate your positive qualities. Celebrate your goodness. Celebrate your beauty.
Thank God for how wonderful He made you.
Love the sinner and the saint within.
I remain your friend,
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 1 John 4:19
 Matthew 15:3-5
 Jeremiah 31:34
 Isaiah 43:25
 1 John 1:9
 Romans 8:1
 Luke 6:36-38
 Proverbs 16:18
 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message)
 1 Corinthians 1:27
 Genesis 1:27
 Genesis 1:31