"People know I speak my mind. That's just who I am."
"I can't help blowing up sometimes. I'm just so stressed."
"That gooey donut was calling to me. How could I help eating it?"
"He was such a nice guy and treated me so well. I couldn't help being attracted to him."
Ever used an I-can't-help-it phrase? It's an easy excuse for all kinds of wrong, from being inconsiderate to lashing out at someone to worse. We imply that our feelings just took over our bodies and for a time we had no control over what we said or did.
That is simply not true. One of my favorite quotes is from Finding the Freedom of Self-Control, a great book by Dr. William Backus. He says,
"If it's not a twitch, you can help it."
That visual just strikes me as funny, and has helped me many a time when I wanted to use the I-can't-help-it excuse to allow myself to do something I shouldn't. I can picture two people, the one irritated and stressed out and losing his temper over something, the other with an eye twitch. Both are saying they can't help it, but anyone present knows which one truly has the uncontrollable condition.
God tells us there's no such thing as I-can't-help-it when it comes to sin. He commands us to live with self-control (Galatians 5:22). To die to ourselves (Galatians 2:20). To not provide what our flesh wants to indulge selfish desires (Romans 13:14).
How do we do that? By being filled with His spirit rather than ours. It's not the kind of thinking we can just change by trying harder. Anyone who has tried harder knows that already! The only way the I-can't-help-it attitude can be defeated is by letting Christ be in charge of our thinking rather than ourselves. That means purposefully taking our thoughts in captivity (2 Corinthians 10:5) and renewing our minds (Romans 12:2), thus being transformed into someone who not only thinks right, but acts right.
I was having trouble with this one this past Saturday. I wasn't feeling well at all and was finding I had very little patience with my kids and their questions. They were bored and I could feel myself wanting to snap at them. I wanted to think that since I was sick I couldn't help not dealing well with their small issues and needs.
But I should have. I should have asked for God's help and then done the right thing regardless of how I felt. I should not have let my feelings be the basis for my thinking and my actions.
"But I can't help the way I feel," you may be saying. It's true that we cannot help the feelings that come. What we do have control of, however, is what we do with those feelings. How we choose to think about them, and what we choose to do with them--as in, rejecting them or giving in to them. Feelings or not, we are still in charge of our choices.
So if you have a twitch, no problem. God knows you can't help that. Everything else, well, as the man said,
"If it's not a twitch . . ."