I have often heard it said that “People don’t change.” My brother has a saying also, “People don’t change, they come out.” I would hate to think that the first general statement is true. I know that people can change. I am proof of it myself. As to the other saying of my brother, there may be some truth to that. Sometimes people are in a situation where they feel they need to hide who they are, but given the right pressure, circumstance or whatever, they “come out” to who they really are, good or bad.
As we live our lives from babies to adolescence, to teens and early adulthood, we are exposed to a tremendous amount in life that can influence us in a myriad of ways. In a sense we are being created, made into the kind of people we become as adults. Sometimes those influences are bad. Sometimes, hopefully, most of them, are good.
As children, we don’t usually get to choose who influences us. We certainly can’t choose whether those influences are good or bad. Sometimes it is an adult or someone older than we are, whom in our young minds, have power over us doing the influencing. Some of these people have good and positive impacts on our lives. More times than anyone cares to admit though, those impacts are extremely negative.
In my case, it was inappropriate touching by older kids, much older. Thank God it was not a family member. The impact was of course negative. I am sure I was not the only kid in my neighborhood that fell victim to these older kids. And among kids my age, there was quite a bit of sexual promiscuity. I’m talking about kids under 10 years old.
We all (at least the males) carried that with us into our teen years. I, for one, didn’t know how to act, appropriately around girls. We all know there is a culture in junior high and high schools, and sometimes elementary schools that are hostile toward young girls. It is even prevalent in the TV shows and movies we watch. Girls are sexually harassed and abused. In some cases, for the entire time they are in school, the problem is never addressed.
Not all boys are this way. Maybe they were lucky and missed such influences on their young lives. Even so, once they enter the public school system they are exposed to this culture. Maybe they are influenced. Maybe they are strong enough to remain under the positive influences of their early childhood. But we all know that some people had it good, but then they turned when faced with life’s challenges.
So, people do change. We are changing all the time. Sometimes we are giving up the good we were taught in order to follow influences that aren’t so great.
For me, I didn’t realize that I was the reason people, especially girls, didn’t like me until I was out of high school. You see, I remembered what I was taught by my mother when I was a kid. I just had not followed her influence all the time I was in school. Call it peer pressure or whatever. I was just like the other boys, most of whom I didn’t even like.
I remember when the realization came to me as to why girls didn’t like me. I was a young adult, 20 I think. I had just gotten a new job at a restaurant. Almost immediately the waitresses there were giving me looks that told me that they didn’t like the way I was talking or acting around them. In that moment I knew it was me. These people didn’t even know me. From that day forward I made an effort to treat them with kindness and respect.
I worked there for 4 years before going off to the military. By the time I left everyone there love me, including the waitresses. They threw a party, and there were even gifts in appreciation for my friendship. People change.
During that time I had also become a Christian and I did a lot of changing that didn’t last. You know, the kind of changes you make just because you are a “Christian” now. I was trying to follow the rules and ideals of religion. That didn’t work. Years later I found myself facing divorce and becoming completely unhinged.
I was a disaster waiting to happen. I let go of whatever control or discipline I thought I had gained and it was pretty ugly. There were people I wanted dead. Wow. And I was willing to commit these atrocities in my anger and pain. Fortunately, the opportunity did not present itself when I was most willing, and vulnerable. The Spirit of God showed me in those moments who I really was, and, WHO I REALLY AM. I just wasn’t able to live it out because of my pain and disappointment.
Religion causes us to try to put God in a box or manipulate Him. We believe that if we follow the rules then our lives will go a certain way. I’m sure you’ve seen TV preachers promising wealth if we would just make a “seed faith” offering to their particular ministry. If you do this, God will do that. That kind of thinking has us believing that we can manipulate God into giving us what we want if we can just behave rightly, go to church enough, pay our tithes, be kind to people (even those we don’t like), etc..
As my life was being destroyed (from my perspective), I was learning that following a set of rules does not guarantee that you will have a great marriage or a prosperous life. And being a person that follows the rules doesn’t make you a good person, or a good Christian. Following the rules also is not an indicator that you have eternal life.
What the Lord showed me was that His ways of love were way different than mine. The Lord forgives us even when we are enraged against Him. One example is the cross. But I have experienced this personally. At some time during this difficult circumstance, I told the Lord that I hated Him and that I wished I had never heard of Him. I was very angry with him because I wasn’t getting my way. His response was, even more, love and compassion, in such a way that I could sense it in the very depth of my heart. He gave me peace and assurances that I was going to be okay, even though I couldn’t see it.
It would still be years before I could let go of my anger against those who’d hurt me, and forgive them. But I did get there. And it was because of the way the Lord dealt with me in His love. And now I know that I have eternal life. It is because I know Him. Jesus once said during a prayer before His crucifixion, “Now this is eternal life—that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. (John 17:3).
In experiencing God’s love at that time I had begun to know Him and His Father as they truly are. God is love. And he always deals with us in love. This began changing me again in ways I didn’t think possible at the time. I don’t want to do anything that does not come from love when dealing with anyone. It doesn’t always work out this way, but that is my goal.
So, people change. I’m glad to say that I am still changing. I am still growing in the Lord’s grace and His love. Every time I experience His love on some new level I am changed. You can’t help but be different when you experience Him this way. It is far beyond following rules regulations and laws. It is a relationship that I cherish and will always hold on to, no matter what is happening in my life.