Have you ever heard someone say something like this, “I can’t believe this person is bringing this up again. Why can’t people just leave things in the past? I apologized, we hugged, we made up, everything seemed fine—why can’t we just move on from it?”
I think change is the hardest thing a human soul can experience in this life. Wether it’s a death of a loved on, a new job, your kids growing up, or switching yogurt brands—humans don’t like the experience of change.
And so sometimes we don’t.
That’s why we often hold on so tightly to the littlest or biggest pieces of our lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s trivial or traumatic—for the human—figuring out how to handle change is probably the toughest and holiest and healing-est things you can do for yourself.
And we know this in our bones don’t we?
Because we all have people around us we wish would change…don’t we? We encounter people in the market, on the road, in church, our wife, our kids, our boss, our president—all people that, in our opinion, have some changing to do.
And is that wrong? Of course not. But if it’s true to the world around us, remember, you’re in the world around everyone else too. So in their scope of reality, you’re one of the people that needs to do some changing—in their opinion.
So to be fair; if we’re to accept and give ourselves the privilege of carrying this idea that people have things to work on, we need to extend this right and accept it from the world around us as well.
The thing we want to change, needs the permission to change us.
Practically, we all need to change some things.
That’s ok. That’s good. That’s part of it.
I was talking to my wife at breakfast the other day and realized something. In our conversation, I’m mostly only aware of her eyes, lips, face, hair and appearance. When we’re talking, I have no idea how I actually appear in the conversation. Because I behold her, and she beholds me, we behold each other. I experience the conversation through her. In the middle of pondering this, I stopped and tried to picture what I was aware of of myself. All I could see was this faint, blurry outline of the tip of my nose.
What I see of me, is partial and blurry; what she see’s of me is the whole thing.
We do fully see each other. And sometimes, we see each other better than we see ourselves.
And this is dangerous ground, because, if we truly see each other, a couple realities appear:
- We carry each others gift.
- We can deeply wound one another.
One of our coping mechanisms with this reality is to pretend. Some would call this the ego, others—the false self. Teenagers might call it being fake. Biblically-read people would call it living in the flesh. Because, if I know I see you, then on some level I also know you see me. And if I don’t like that reality, I pretend to be who I want you to think I am, or hide, or run from it.
So I think we have a couple options.
One being—accept that you can’t change people, and give up the right to be annoyed or bothered or want to help your fellow man. Then, after giving this up, you have truly given yourself the right to be free from external criticism yourself. Don’t judge, and you’re free from being judged.
Two—still accept that you can’t change people, but that your viewpoint matters, as do other peoples, and find the grace to be honest and the strength to let them be honest back.
The second view gives each person the dignity of what they see. And don’t we all want that?
I think we struggle in relationships the way we do because we want to do all the changing ourselves. I agree, the power to change comes from within the individual. No one can change you for you. But often the clarity, the inspiration, the tools or instructions needed for change, come from without.
This makes us dependent on one another.
This keeps us from spreading out and living on our own islands.
And this is seen expressed literally in the male and female. Each person contains something the other doesn’t, and the only way life on planet earth can move forward is for each person to share with the other their individual part, and the other to receive it. Without this union—new life cannot begin.
And so it is with communication and friendship and marriage and work—all unions between two individual minds. In order for us to create something new; something literally impossible to create on my own—we must come together.
So we start there. Doing our best to accept this reality of life; that each person contains the missing part to make you whole.
(Like I said, it might quite possibly be the toughest thing we learn in this life)
But it’s slow…
Once we accept this view; that other people can give us a gift, that we ourselves have some working to do, we then have to embrace the process of change.
THE PROCESS OF CHANGE
It would be unfair to say that the dilemma I’m about to explain is just an evangelical or christian thing. That’s the world I grew up in, and it’s easy to universalize my experiences and cast them onto the whole world scene, but I know that’s not true. But as I’ve grown and engaged people, I’ve come to see it’s simply a human struggle, regardless of upbringing or religion etc. And that struggle is this…
We believe in magic.
We believe that change happens instantaneously.
That miracles happen in moments.
I think they do too, and can. But I think change is mostly something else.
Tony Robbins even says that humans can truly change; if they’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right motivation, change can be a 2-3 second thing. Boom! Fast!
I agree. But I think it looks more like this…
I think the seeds of that changing moment had been growing for a long time. I think we struggle and hurt and pray and hope and dream and try and fail, planting seeds into the soil of our lives. I think most of the work goes on underground—unseen. And just like in Spring, often times people witness this amazing celebration of the flower popping it’s head out of ground and declare it a miracle. Growth is miraculous indeed, but the flower appearing is not the only miraculous part. It’s quick, sudden, and beautiful, but the true miracle had been working under the surface for much longer than that moment.
So when we see those decisions; the choice to go to AA, the couple who starts going to counseling, the one who joins weight watchers, the family member who finally admits they were wrong and asks forgiveness, the guys who quits his job and embraces a truer passion, we rejoice, but, must remember, this moment is not the miracle.
Why is this important?
Because, when we create the repentance or decision or blossom moment as the miracle, we set people up for failure. When we celebrate the blossom without celebrating the—seed being planted and watered, the shell dying and germinating, the sun heading south during winter, allowing the snow and water to penetrate the ground, the dark nights, the patience, the failures—we, in a sense, tell a lie about the process..
That change is quick when it’s not.
That decisions are fast and easy, when they’re not.
That turning your life around is one decision, when it’s many.
We develop an “Abra Cadabra” version of change.
We do this in church too. We invite people down to the alter to confess their sins, accept forgiveness, and then declare they are a “new creature.” Some of you are familiar with this. It can be beautiful, it can also set people up for major failure.
I think there’s a better picture and it goes along with picture of the see I just wrote a few paragraphs above.
If we go back to the question I asked at sentence one, we’ll remember that we’ve often felt those feelings ourself and for others. That we wish we could just say sorry and hope all the years of pain and frustration and offense would just go away. That one magical moment would heal thousands of hurtful ones. Sure, it can happen, but it’s not the true story of growth.
And so, if the moment we apologized to a friend wasn’t the true magic, but was more all the longer-unseen-underground process—then so shall it be moving forward.
This is a healthier version of change.
A seed being planted, a road choosing to walk down.
It would be crazy for someone to say, “I realize I don’t drink enough water. I’m dehydrated. I admit it. I need to change. Someone give me a bottle of water. I’m choosing to be hydrated from now on.” And then watch them not drink water the next day and day after. Wouldn’t it be crazy to run into them a week or a month later and ask how that hydration has been going and they say, “Oh great. That bottle of water was amazing.” And of course, you ask, “You mean todays bottle of water?” And they say, “Oh no. I’m hydrated. That one bottle fixed it all.”
And just as the body would need you to choose the daily path of hydration, so the soul asks us the same.
That if I’m sorry; I don’t just keep reminding you for years to come that once upon a time I said sorry. Choosing to say sorry would be much better pictured like this: “I realize it’s not easy for me to apologize. I realize I hurt someones feelings or was insensitive. I’m not just going to say sorry this once, but I’m choosing to accept and walk down the path of apology today, and every day forward.”
There is no magical apology—there’s the road of apology.
I’ve seen so many people get caught up in this web. Tricked by believing all the emotions and healing and trust were re-built over night. It’s almost like some lavish apologies can be attempts for the fast road out and around the true pain or reality of the situation. And the continued openness to the person shows you’re on the path, and you understand change takes time.
Change is not a magical bottle of water, or prayer, or celebration, or apology, or momentary decision—it’s planting a seed, it’s a road to walk down, the beginning of a new process. Sure, the fruit will come, the emotions will heal, the mindsets will change, but it will take time, and just like the work that brought you to the changing moment was down slowly and under the soil, so shall it be moving forward.
Believe me, I like big moments. Those moments where we see clearly and make oaths and commitments and dedications to a new direction. I love when we finally have the strength to apologize or start a new routine, but I like more the realizing that that big moment is just planting one more seed in the ground, and it will take a few seasons before we can pluck the fruit from the tree and enjoy it.
And I’ve realized how healing this is for those around you. Instead of me saying to my wife, “Hey! I said I was sorry for having a temper…umm…sometime this past year, didn’t I? Now you just need to work on forgiving me!?” Perhaps, but just because I realize I’ve had a temper and am sorry for it, doesn’t mean I’m changed that moment. Change begins in the mind, grows in the heart, and blossoms outward through our words, emotions and actions.
Remember, the people around us see us clearly. We have t accept this. And if we truly want change, we invite them into the process.
A better approach would be something, maybe, like this, “Hey honey. I do realize I have a temper. You’ve told me. I see it, and I’m sorry. But that sorry doesn’t mean anything. I’m going to try to work on it, but because I’ve been this way for so long, it probably won’t come easy…I’m going to need some help. So, moving forward, I’ll need your input and help; a soft reminder, a wink, a clue, something you can do to show me when I’m being impatient, and I don’t realize I’m doing it—the clarity of my face when all I can see is the blurry part of my nose. I might not always like it. I may even sometimes try to explain myself out of it. But right now, in this moment of clarity, I’m telling you I’ll need your help. And I’m not just sorry right now. When I do it in the future, I’ll also be sorry. This apology is less me making the past right, but announcing to you that I’m going to walk down a new path; a path where you can correct me, and guide me, and help me grow.”
See, the apology is not declaring I am changed. It’s declaring I’m choosing to walk down the road of change, to plant the seeds of change, and it’ll take time, and I’ll need all the help I can get.
So we see, that change is not a magic bullet—it’s a process.
Healing is not one conversation—it’s all the talks you’ll have from this moment forward.
Miracles are not just moments—they are miles.
And yes, sometimes we see the moment where everything changed, and from that day forward the person was “never the same again.” Amen. But may we also, honestly, see that moment for all it is, and in line with seeing reality as whole as we can, bless and honor and see the seeds of growth and change and patience, the whole process that was going on underneath the surface before that moment. And as we see that—blessing the past growth—may we see that moving forward, and embrace the journey, the road of change.