I ran across this story as I was working on this homily and want to share it with you:
“A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.
“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”
“What’s that, sir?”
“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them all free!”
With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.
The moral of the story is:
“Until you give yourself permission to be the unique person God made you to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows you to do . . . you will be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom.” 
Our lives today are essentially the sum of our habits.
- How in shape or out of shape are we? A result of our habits.
- How happy or unhappy are we? A result of our habits.
What we repeatedly do (i.e. what we spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person we are, the things we believe, and the personality that we portray.
We all have gotten ourselves into ruts of behavior (or habits) that we don’t even think about . . . we just do. Take a minute and think about something that you do ‘because you have always done it that way’.
We need to look at why we established the habits in the first place. Habits generally get established because we get something in return for the behavior. We need to ask ourselves what kind of reward do we get when from the habit? Is the reward good or bad? Do we really want to keep the habit?
Habits are hard to break. . . anyone who has tried to stop smoking will tell you that. And there are other habits just as destructive to our health and well-being. But deep-seeded, habitual habits are hard to break.
Have you ever thought that you could climb out of that rut and change? It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to make massive changes in our lives. But, we all know that it is not easy to change a habit (ask anyone who has tried to stop smoking). Habits are so ingrained in us that we often don’t even know they are habits. And to change a habit is not easy, and can’t be changed in on fell-swoop. They have to be changed one little piece at a time.
Mark Twain once said:
“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”
So how do we break a habit?
First, we have to acknowledge that we have the habit. We can’t change something that we can’t or won’t name. After we admit we have that habit, we need to determine why we started the habit in the first place – did we start biting our nails as a child because we were afraid? Did we start cracking our knuckles to irritate the girls in our schoolroom? Whatever habit we want to change, we must first name it and figure out why we do it.
Secondly, we need to write it down – take a piece of paper and write ‘I will stop. . . . “ whatever the habit is and put it on the refrigerator, or bathroom mirror, or in your wallet, or anywhere you will see it many times during the day. This will remind you the desire to break the habit. Don’t’ say ‘I will try to stop. . .’ – be positive – we can break a habit if we really want to and are willing to expend the energy.
Another trick is to put a rubber band around your wrist, and every time you do the habit, snap the rubber band. Trust me. it won’t take long to remember to stop the habit. Or if you are a smoker, switch to Life Savers or gum when you feel the need to put that cigarette in your mouth. We only have so much room for habits, so replace that destructive habit with a good habit.
The last thing we need to do is forgive ourselves if we fall back into that habit. Habits are not changed overnight; some of them take months, even years to break. Be ready to forgive yourself when you don’t slip back into the old habit – changing is not easy! And EVERYONE has habits they would like to break.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Be kind to yourself. . . remember that God loves each and every one of us and we should love ourselves. Habits are not unsurmountable! We can overcome them!
 Charles Swindoll, Dallas Seminary Daily Devotional, 2-7-05; http://www.preaching.com/newsletter/
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 25 Jun 2017