When Christians have a question about what their behavior should be, they go to the Bible, which they consider the word of God, for guidance. They may go to other sources as well (e.g., ministers and counselors), but the "Good Book" is their primary source for answers. That is now the place to go for examples of Biblical behavior modification.
Although they are not always immediately evident, the Bible is replete with examples of respondent conditioning. In fact, Christians are to associate all kinds of good feelings, not only to the book itself, "his delight is in the law of the Lord..." (Psalm 1:2), but also to all the symbols and images of Christianity:
May I never boast except in the cross. (Galatians 6:14)
... for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
. we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf [communion]. (I Corinthians 10:16, 17)
Christians are also taught to associate negative feelings with certain situations, in order that the negative becomes conditioned:
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
Watch out for false teachers. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
With aversive counterconditioning, Biblical behavior modification offers a more specific application of respondent conditioning, one that helps Christians avoid undesired behaviors by making the association with them very aversive:
Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. (Proverbs 23:20, 21)
For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword____ (Proverbs
Desensitization for the Christian is not developed in specific hierarchy form in the Bible as it is with a therapist. However, the major component of desensitization, the training in relaxation under stressful situations, is evident in many passages: "So do not fear, for I am with you." (Isaiah 41:10); "Do not be anxious about anything." (Philippians 4:6, 7); "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27).
Operant conditioning, like respondent conditioning, is found throughout the Bible. Unlike respondent conditioning, however, examples of operant conditioning are very obvious. The following passages indicate the prevalence in scripture of the concepts of rewards and punishment for behaviors:
I praise you for remembering me. (I Corinthians 11:2)
They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord ... will award to me on that day. (II Timothy 4:8)
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled. (II Thessalonians 1:6-10)
In essence, the Bible exists as two major contingency contracts. The Old Testament is a contingency contract for the Jews and the New Testament is a contingency contract for Christians. In other words, the two major divisions of the Bible, contracted with two groups of people, offer a written behavior guide, complete with rewards and punishments, for each group.
Deuteronomy 28:1-64 is a lengthy, but excellent, example from the Old Testament. Examples for Christians from the New Testament, although not so lengthy, still show the contingencies of the behaviors: "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." (Matthew 19:17); "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." (Romans 2:6-8).
The Biblical behavior modification version of modeling is also common in numerous Bible passages. The value and effectiveness of modeling is also illustrated in quite straightforward language:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
... you shall read this law before them in their hearing so they can listen and learn. (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)
... set an example for the believers. (I Timothy 4:12)
You became imitators of us and of the Lord. And so you became a model to all the believers. (I Thessaloni-ans 1:6-8)
Christians are taught from the time they become Christians that their thoughts, and the control of those thoughts, are important parts of their Christian life. Therefore, the cognitive portion of Biblical behavior modification has great value to them, especially if they can find ways to control the mind when it becomes unruly. Covert assertion is one method that helps in difficult emotional or physical circumstances:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Phillippians 4:11)
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phillippians 4:13)
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (Psalm 56:3, 4)
Although there are many others, one last cognitive therapy to examine here is semantic desensitization, the purposeful conditioning of pleasant thoughts or images to something that is not so pleasant. Christians make use of this technique to help keep the inner peace they desire, despite what is going on in their lives.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory. (II Corinthians 4:16-18)
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)
. but we rejoice in our sufferings. (Romans 5:2, 3)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2, 3, & 12)
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Do you suffer from a habit or a behavior or a repetitive thought pattern that keeps you from being who you want to be? Do you try to change this or that aspect of your life, but wind up right back where you started? You're not alone! Millions of Americans try to make changes, but the whopping majority fail exceptionally.