We all have them. Bad habits we really need to break.
Most of the time we see them – and even point them out – in others. But truth be told we struggle with them just as much as the woman sitting next to us in church.
I recently posted on my Facebook timeline the question, “What do you think are the top 10 bad habits Christian women need to break?” It made for an interesting week, a little bit of defensiveness, some finger-pointing, and a lot of personal conviction. And while I collected what you believe are about 40 bad habits Christian women need to break, I narrowed the list to the 10 most popular answers. And I couldn’t agree with them more.
Nonbelievers might even recognize these bad habits in us more than we do. So, instead of hiding behind our bumper stickers that we are, “Not of this World” or, “Not Perfect, Just Forgiven”, let’s get real about some of the bad habits we, as Christian women, need to break.
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1. Judging Others Whose Convictions Differ from Our Own
Admit it. It’s pretty easy to look down on the Christian woman who sends her children to public school while you make the sacrifice to homeschool yours. Or, to think that homeschooling mom is enabling her children to be spiritually weak by not exposing them – as you are – to the faith-stretching experience of public schools. And what about that couple from church who actually paid to see that R-rated movie? And don’t get us started on that new youth pastor and his tattoos!
Judging other Christians for their differing convictions is legalism, not love for others, which Jesus said is the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-39).
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2. Gossiping by "Sharing" a Prayer Request
Every Christian woman knows it is a sin to gossip. But we tend to believe if we are “sharing” a prayer request about someone else (and providing information that person hasn’t given us permission to share), we are justified.
Food for thought: If you wouldn’t take it upon yourself to “share” another’s struggles with a third party if that struggling person was standing there next to you, don’t share it at all. One woman recently told me “I never ask for prayer openly. I have very few women in my life I will ask that know any details. I don’t want to offer my life as a target for judgmental gossip.” Ouch. Gals, let’s be more focused on “protecting” than “sharing.”
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3. Offering Unsolicited Counseling
Have you been on the receiving end of “Christian counsel” from a woman who listened to you but then started offering advice without asking permission first? I think we’ve all done this, now and then, without even realizing it. While Scripture commands us to encourage and exhort, the key is found in Ephesians 4:29 – do it in a way that lifts others up, “according to the need of the moment…” Problem is, most women don’t need our advice in the moment. They need someone to listen and encourage them.
The best way to avoid this bad habit is to simply ask “Do you mind if I share with you some direction from Scripture?” and then keep it scriptural. There’s nothing worse than giving (or receiving) “Christian counsel” that is neither Christian, nor wise counsel.
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4. Making Up or Twisting Scripture
I don’t believe any Christian does this intentionally. But to misuse the word of God to other believers -- or worse yet to unbelievers -- is a bad habit that needs to be broken. Telling your unbelieving friend who just lost her job that “God works all things together for good” is downright irresponsible if not misleading if she isn’t one who loves God and is called according to His purpose (which is the last half of Romans 8:28 that we tend to only partially quote). Likewise, to tell your neighbors who are losing their house due to unwise financial choices that God knows the plans He has for them, “to prosper them and give them a hope and a future” is misleading given the context of Jeremiah 29:11 and the context of your neighbors’ situation.
Be careful that in your desire to encourage you don’t twist Scripture to apply to anyone who is willing to “receive a word from God.” Know Scripture. And share it responsibly.
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5. Rushing in to Rescue a Situation
I realize women who follow Christ want to help in any situation they can. But that can be a bad habit if we aren’t seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit. In my recently-released book, Drama Free, I explain that if we are already feeling overwhelmed, overscheduled, and overextended, the last thing we should do is rush in to rescue a situation before seeking God’s direction about whether or not we should intervene. Instead of rushing in, try this three-step approach: 1) Stop; 2) Seek God’s guidance; 3) Stay out of it unless God gives you clear indication to step into it.
Another reason we seek God’s guidance first is because God may want someone to get downright desperate for Him first so they depend on Him rather than you or someone else. A friend of mine has learned to ask God “Is this interceding or interfering?” When you rush in to be someone’s emotional savior or last-minute help without consulting God first, you might actually be preventing that person from calling out to God, developing a prayer life, and learning a new dependence on Him to come through.
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6. Being More Passionate - and Public - about Petty Topics than Our Faith
Prior to the emergence of social media, we were shy about sharing our faith or getting up on stage and giving a speech. Now that we can hide behind the screens on our devices, we can’t hold our tongues (or unglue our fingers from the keyboard) about what we feel strongly about, from support of our favorite celebrities, to avoiding gluten like the plague. But are we as vocal and passionate, in person, about our relationship with Christ?
Instead of being loud and proud about what doesn’t really matter in the scope of eternity, be gentle, caring, and loving when it comes to what really matters, like sharing the love of Jesus with your friend.
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7. Boycotting the "Bad" Instead of Supporting the Good
Why is it that a group of Christian women are often behind the protests, petitions, or boycotts of companies that are not upholding Christian values when those companies never claimed to be Christian in the first place?
Before complaining to Starbucks about not spelling out “Christmas” on their coffee cups, or to Target stores for allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice, or to Disney for having “an exclusively gay moment” in their recent reboot movie, try letting those secular companies know what they’re doing right, instead of pointing out what they’re doing wrong.
Love and grace has always gone a lot further than bad-mouthing, bashing, and boycotting. I’m not saying “don’t take a stand for your values.” I’m saying “don’t expect non-Christians to share the same values you have.” Apart from Christ, the world will continue to act like the world.
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8. Failing to Care for Our Bodies
Scripture says our bodies are temples, the dwelling place of the living God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Yet I’ve heard far too many women joke about “getting a new body in heaven someday” as justification for failing to care for the bodies they have now.
My husband, a longtime pastor, refers to our physical neglect as “the absent theology of the human body.” We believe we should be disciplined in daily prayer, Bible study, and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s control of our lives, yet shouldn’t that discipline extend to daily habits like proper eating, drinking, exercising, and making sure we’re not overworked, overstressed, and undernourished?
To the contrary, Christian women tend to look at women who are muscular, in great shape, or who exercise three to five times a week as “gym junkies” or women who are “obsessed with their bodies.” Scripture implies anything in excess is a sin. And that includes eating and vegging on the couch, as well.
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9. Belittling Ourselves
Come on, girl. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) so your talk about yourself should reflect that you are created in God’s image, saved by the sacrifice of His Son, and being sanctified by His Holy Spirit.
How it hurts our hearts when our children constantly put themselves down. God feels the same way when you and I trash talk about ourselves. The old adage “God don’t make no junk” holds true here. Talk of yourself in light of your identity in Christ. It’s much more attractive.
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10. Refusing to Get Real
Ever find yourself saying “I had no idea they were struggling” after finding a committed Christian couple is going through a divorce? That’s because we tend to keep up the façade that everything is fine when we’re struggling. The body of Christ is meant to be a family. When one member hurts, the whole body feels it (1 Corinthians 12:26). Family is there for each other, through the struggles, the pain, and the embarrassing mistakes.
Let go of the “spiritual image” of having a perfect marriage and family and get real with one another about what you struggle with and where you need others’ support and prayer. When we get real with each other and learn to lift up each other’s burdens in a community that prays together and stays together, we will truly stand apart from the world, rather than mirror its statistics on divorce and depression.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker who helps women and couples strengthen their walk with God and their relationships. She is the author of 15 books, including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and her newest book, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
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Originally published Tuesday, 27 June 2017.