Subtract Before You Add


“…every addition to our lives requires a subtraction” – Ed Cyzewski

I have just started the book, Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together, by Ed Cyzewski.  The first few lines of the opening chapter, “Creating Space to Pray and Write,” are this: “Spiritual director Larry Warner shared in a workshop in 2014 that every addition to our lives requires a subtraction.  If you’re trying to add something to your life without subtracting something else, there’s a good chance the stuff that’s already there will win.”  Wow – I have found this to be so true!

In my own life, my writing has come at the expense of other items.  There is only so much time in the day and too many things to fit in so making writing a priority has meant I have had to give other things up.  For example, I rarely watch TV or movies these days and have certainly cut back on my personal journaling quite a bit lately. I’m also hoping that by reading Cyzewski’s book and choosing to make prayer a priority also that I will be able to carve out even more space in my life to pray consistently as well.

The irony of all this winnowing away at things in my life is that I have felt I almost have even more time for those prioritized items which I am adding in!   So much time was wasted by checking email or Facebook too often or following the rabbit trail of online news articles.  However when I know I need to get a blog post done by the end of nap time, it focuses my efforts and seems to stretch the time.

Of course the opposite can be seen as well:  whenever you subtract something negative from your life, you need to add something better in its place or else the destructive habit will come right back.  Haven’t you found this to be the case?  You take away eating sweets for a while but don’t replace them with another yummy food that is also healthier.  Well (at least for me), it doesn’t take long before I find myself munching away again on a bar of chocolate or eating a bowl of ice cream late at night.

This idea also reminds me of Matthew 12:43-45 where Jesus says, “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order.  Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”  These are somewhat sobering words to hear for sure – it is not enough to simply “clean up” our spiritual act, we need to put in some holier habits as well.

But whichever is the case for you right now  – whether you need to take add something better into your life or take something away that is unhealthy for you – I’d encourage you to consciously think of what you need to either first take away  or then add in its place.  Sometimes just being mindful of this can be the very thing that tips the scale towards success!

I am linking up to Holly Gerth’s “Coffee for your Heart” today.  Click on the image to find another blogger’s linkup you might also like!


Love to Hear Your Thoughts!