How to Break a Cycle

And here we are again: facing this thing we thought we conquered a long time ago, wish we had conquered a long time ago, cannot believe we’re working through again.

Whether generational, personal, or relational, being caught in a cycle is a common experience people find themselves having to deal with.

The possibility or current state of another rendition of an undesirable reality can be quite a hopeless place, but there is hope. You don’t have to be stuck in an endless loop. You have a choice.

That’s the precursory step to breaking a cycle: to see another way, to know there is another road aside from the loop you feel stuck in.

Such a vision could be anything from experiencing a unified family dinner to meeting someone who made it to the other side of an addictive behavior you can’t seem to shake.

Once you see the possibility, that a reality contrary to the life you lead is possible, there are three steps to breaking a cycle.

#1 — Name it

You can’t break a cycle you can’t name. Be specific. Where is it that you don’t want to go? What is it that you don’t want to do?

It may be helpful to think through Tim Keller’s “deep idols,” four umbrellas that cover most tendencies of one’s sin nature.

  1. Power: I have influence over others, authority, or the upper hand. The greatest fear of someone with an idol of power is disrespect. The emotional response to that is anger.
  2. Approval: I am loved and respected by _______. The greatest fear is rejection, being overlooked, or being dismissed. The emotional response is to live in insecurity or fear.
  3. Comfort: I have a certain kind of pleasure. The greatest fear is stress and the emotional response of someone with an idol of comfort is often boredom.
  4. Control: I have mastered _______. The greatest fear of someone with an idol of control is uncertainty and the emotional response is anxiety.

Whatever the case, specifically identify the cycle you want to break and every day stand strong against it saying, “We’re not going there!”

#2 — Cry out

We can’t do it on our own. No matter how strong our will is, no matter how determined we are, we still have finite minds and bodies made of flesh.

Even Paul couldn’t keep himself from undesired behavior. “I do not understand my own actions,” he wrote in Romans 7:15. “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

How wonderful it is that we have a Savior who is willing to save us from ourselves! We only need to recognize our helpless state and ask.

It is this acknowledgment that makes a Christian a Christian.

A church made of born-again believers is not a body of people who are strong and have it all together but people who are weak and admit they need a Savior.

#3 — Take action

Cycles are never broken with good intentions. You need to make choices, to take action, to step in the right direction.

“The steps you take don’t have to be big, they just need to take you in the right direction.”

-Jemma Simmons, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This will look different for everyone but could ripple out in actions like…

  • Getting rid of or learning to do without something so it’s harder to sin
  • Talking to a loved one (maybe for the first time) and being honest
  • Seeking accountability by asking someone to pray for you
  • Changing your community so you’re surrounded by good influences

Whatever the next step is, take it. Don’t push the thought away into some dark crevis of your soul.

The fears you don’t face become your limits and change does not occur whilst curled up in your comfort zone. You really want to break this cycle? Take action.

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