"I hate being late," my friend lamented. "It has been a problem for me all my life."
"Do you really want to change that?" I asked.
"Yes, I do."
"All right. Every time you are late to work or anywhere else where you have committed to be at a particular time you must give me $25."
"No way!" my friend responded. "I would go broke! But I will do $10."
"All right, $10 it is. It has to be a large enough amount of money for it to hurt your pocketbook."
"Believe me, that will hurt," my friend said. About a month later my friend found great motivation to be on time to every place she had to be. In the first week, I got only $10 from my friend. The next week, $20. The third week, nothing. By the fifth week, my friend had changed a lifelong habit that had hindered her all her life. In order for my friend not to be resentful of me for the money she had to give, we put it in a jar to be given to some other Christian cause. This ensured my motive was only for her best interest.
Some might be reading this now and say it is legalism. For my friend it was freedom. For the first time she had some means of changing a behavior that had caused her problems in relationships and her own work habits. Psychologists tell us that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, if you need to change some habit, you need to be actively engaged in that new behavior at least 21 days. My friend needed help to change a habit she didn't like about herself. It took another individual to hold her accountable, and it took a potential loss of something to provide the added incentive.
A successful businessman was experiencing a difficult marriage. When counseling the couple over dinner one night, a friend of mine noticed that the man often criticized his wife. After further counsel it was determined the man simply could not love his wife. My friend asked him if he truly wanted to see change in his marriage. When the man said he did, my friend said, "Every time you criticize your wife you must agree to give me $100." This man was well-off and needed substantial incentive to change his behavior. After the man rebelled and retorted, he agreed in front of his wife. A few weeks later a report came back that things were changing. This man did not want to write any checks to my friend. Although it was a competitive game to the man, it was also yielding some positive changes in his marriage. He began to acquire the habit of avoiding criticism of his wife, which was killing her spirit.
What are the habits that keep you from becoming all that God may want you to become? Do you desire change enough to be accountable in a way that it costs you something when you fail? Ask a friend to hold you accountable in an area that needs change. You will find new freedom as you conquer old besetting habits.