How often we think about changing others or changing ourselves. Easier said than done. Trying to change someone or change ourselves is perhaps the greatest source of frustration in our lives. But still we try. And yes, there are some time-tested methods of producing a change – guilt, shame, various forms of “persuasion” or… reminding the person of the fire of hell.
These methods can be quite effective. Many people readily change under external pressure. But when the pressure is taken away they slide back to where they were or even further.
Change is difficult. It seems easy — just change, just don’t do it, just stop. But we discover that change is often beyond our control, no matter how much we try.
I often forget that change is a fruit that grows on the vine of love and relationship. Fruit is not something you create or produce, it just grows. Change comes by itself where the soil is fertile.
A while ago we noticed a strange change in our son’s behavior. He had always been a happy child but recently became irritable, impatient, whiny. At first we thought he could be tired or sick. He wasn’t. One day he gave us such a hard time that I was seriously considering some form of discipline to bring him back to his senses.
But I had an uneasy feeling about it until the next morning when my mind cleared up. I thought I heard God speaking: “Take him swimming. Do something together.” Strangely, my heart lifted. We went swimming, played some tennis, spent time chatting and eating our favorite cinnamon rolls. We spent several days doing just this. And what a difference it made! He is quite himself now, happy and motivated, with almost no effort on my part.
What is it? Magic? I didn’t do a thing. I just had a fun time with my son! But something grew out of it, a change. The only reason and motive for change is a sensation of being loved. That’s the only thing that can cause us to really change. I am sure that my son had no idea why in the world he changed. He had no goals set, no rewards to motivate himself with. He didn’t work for it, he didn’t follow any disciplines or rules. He simply “was” — with me.
In the words of the Russian philosopher Nikolay Bergyaev, “true existence” begets life. To live means to “be your true self.” When a person is allowed to be himself, when he’s accepted without any conditions, he lives. He grows wings, he taps into the wells of life hidden deep within. He gets transformed.
“True existence” grows out of a loving relationship. Don’t be in a hurry to change yourself or others. Most likely you will fail. Change is a fruit that grows on its own where there’s a loving relationship. We must shift our focus from trying to change to learning to be. We must cease trying and start being. When was the last time you simply “were”?
Thinking about God in this light, it is reasonable to conclude that he is not expecting us to change on our own, much less to change others or the world around us. He just wants us us to “be” — with Him — swimming, walking, dining, reading, jumping, talking. He comes in the morning and says: “You may have a problem with anger, discontent, envy, distrust, self-indulgence. But don’t get too worked up about it. Don’t look at yourself. Come with me.”
So we take his hand and walk out the door, still feeling unsure on the inside. But after a day or two we start relaxing into being who we are and magic is worked upon us. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, we get transformed when we see him as he is. There’s no anger, discontent, envy or self-indulgence left. We see his face. And nothing else matters.