TC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #1: "People rarely change, and even then it’s never on their own."
We are in the season of New Year's Resolutions. We want to work out more, eat healthier, do more charity, be a better parent or spouse, go back to school, quit smoking, save money, or perhaps all of the above.
These are great ideas. Surely things that would improve the lives of those who undertake these endeavors.
So why is is that only about 8% of New Years Resolutions are actually fulfilled?
I read a quote once (but now can't remember where) that said this: "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because they both keep doing what they've always done."
This idea doesn't just apply to money: apply it to a healthy lifestyle. Apply it to your engagement as a parent or spouse, apply it to pretty much anything in your life.
So why is it so hard for us to change ourselves?
The simple answer comes from Isaac Newton's first law of motion which is often summed up this way: A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.
Unless an outside force exerts force on an object, that object will keep doing what it has been doing. (That's actually the third law).
In other words, if we want to eat differently, or stop doing something (like smoking), or start doing something (like saving money), we're going to have to exert force in that area of our life.
We quickly figure out that it's way, way easier to just let the thing do whatever it was already doing. And then we often give up.
For me to carve out time during my week to write a regular series of blog posts is going to require effort. And that's just a short essay. Being a better husband or father will take not only time, but energy, and sacrifice.
So the bigger the change (or the bigger the object we're trying to move), the more force it will require. No wonder we can give up so easily.
Honestly, some things are just to big and too heavy for us to move on our own. That is where a person of faith will need to engage in a relationship with God to help move the object. And because God is a redeemer rather than a genie, the process will still take time and energy.
This is why we so often fail: because it isn't easy. Who wants to choose the rocky, difficult path when the wide paved way is always right in front of us?
But that begs the question: why do we get so frustrated when other people don't change?
When we fail to change, we are often able to justify that failure (I was too busy, I was too stressed, I was too (fill in the blank)), but when others fail, we turn in to a results based person. I don't care why you didn't do a better job at X, the bottom line is that you let me down.
We recognize the cost of change in our own life and excuse ourselves when we are not prepared to pay that cost. We must learn to extend that same grace to others. If we are not willing to do that, we would be wise not to interact with other people at the point of that frustration we have.
(This is why it's so important to keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards, as Ben Franklin famously said)
It is possible for us to help somebody change: a friend asks you to help them go to the gym on a particular schedule, or asks for you to provide accountability over a particular area of their life.
But it must be noted that this can only occur when you have been invited to do so. The other person must want to change before you can help them in their journey.
So the bottom line is this: people rarely change because change is hard. It's much easier to stay in the rut we've carved out for ourselves.
But if we're ready to ask for help from a God who offers empowering grace, there is always hope.
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2a)
"Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 19:26b)