Behavior Change and Heart ChangeMost of us, at one time or another, have wished that we were a different person. These thoughts may come to us when things are not going well, or in times when we are in trouble. We may feel shallow or inadequate in these times. Our behavior may have been offensive or unacceptable to others, and we may be embarrassed or overcome with guilt.

When it comes to making personal changes in our lives, it can be just as difficult. Often the focus is on changing our behaviors and our habits, but these are often not long lasting. More often than not, our efforts are pointed at negative habits and behaviors, and we put a lot of effort into trying to avoid them. It often does not occur to us to ask ourselves what to do to replace these behaviors.

While heart changes are more lasting, they cannot be made all at once. This is the point of Life Recovery – it is a new way of doing life. Recovery is not an event, but a journey. In the meantime, we cannot ignore our behavior that is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves. Our behaviors should not be excused while building our character. Working the steps daily will be integral to a life change we can sustain.

The apostle Paul talked about making changes in our lives in Colossians 2:20-3:17. He pointed out that when we try to make changes in our lives through rules and regulations, or by trying to restrict our poor behaviors, failure is soon to follow. In his day, people would say ‘don’t touch’ or ‘don’t taste.’ But Paul pointed out that these rules and restrictions lack any value in restraining our indulgences.

Paul talked about ways to achieve inner peace as we change from the heart. Some of these things are compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and bearing with each other. There are many ways to display these principles to others. These principles are found in recovery, as we seek God’s direction in each and every circumstance in our lives. And as we display them, we let others decide how to use them effectively. For example, if we are going to be compassionate to our spouses, we will let them define the most effective way to show compassion; otherwise it is nothing more than a selfish act.

There is another benefit in changing from the heart: it takes a lot of the pressure out of life. Behavior change usually results in trying to achieve perfection. This brings stress, anxiety, and worry over what others will think of us. It leaves us angry and defensive with others as they point out our flaws. Lasting change accepts our flaws as a part of who we are, and the recovery process is done with a sense of purpose. Change becomes a journey that is slow but consistent. And in the end, our weaknesses do not totally define us as a person. Recovery as a way of life creates a heart of surrender and humility which ultimately provides serenity.