The desire for personal change is epidemic in America these days. If you don’t believe me, next time you are in a bookstore go through the section containing Christian books, and then also peruse the Self Help section, along with Psychology and even Alternative Health. Examine the book covers, front and back, and count how many times you read the phrase, “…will change your life.” Look for similar phrases as well. I think you get the idea.
Marketers of publishing houses great and small have discovered that people like you and me want to change the quality of life for the better. This is understandable. I suspect just about everyone wants to improve, but I believe there is something deeper here than meets the eye. Experiences with family, friends, and clients in workshops, training programs, and faith coaching sessions have led me to believe that everywhere you look these days, there is a common malady riding on the backs of people: a basic dissatisfaction with life.
Volumes could be written on the causes for such a phenomenon. However, that is not the point of this article. What I want to focus on here is not the cause for this sense of quiet desperation that seems to be hanging off people like some dark, dank, energy-sucking moss. A discussion of the possible solutions to this problem is not the focus, either. What I would like to discuss is the first step in any program of personal transformation. Without this essential ingredient, you won’t even make it out of the starting gate.
What is that essential component? It is simple, really. In order to actually change your life you have to genuinely want to. You see my friend, many people say they want to change, but they actually don’t mean it. They may even think they mean it, but they are only fooling themselves. The minute the going gets rough, these folks bail out faster than you can say, “Maybe things weren’t that bad after all.” Once these folks get a good whiff of the personal sacrifices often required in any program of transformation they hit their haunches faster than a Mississippi donkey.
Many years ago I worked as a counselor in an inpatient psychiatric facility. I recall one patient in particular who was a good example of what I am getting at here. We’ll call her Bessie, although that was not her real name. Bessie had been admitted to the facility at least eight times that I knew of. No matter what therapeutic interventions her doctors tried, she always reverted back to her problematic way of dealing with the world, which involved a combination of prescription medication, alcohol, and frequent violent explosions.
Bessie had been a patient of just about every psychiatrist in town at one time or the other, but the results were always the same. Bessie reverted back to being, well, Bessie.
At one point a new, young doctor came on staff and took over Bessie’s case. He tried a number of new things with Bessie and she at least seemed to be making some changes. Unfortunately, one day while in the hospital she manifested her old behavior. She reached over the nurses’ station and grabbed two medical charts and smashed them against the wall. She then began jumping up and down on them while ripping her clothes off and screaming at the top of her lungs. All of this happened just after she noticed her young doctor get off the elevator. While only clad in her underpants (Bessie was in her 70’s mind you, and more than a few pounds overweight), she started running in circles around her physician while telling him the following:
“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to, Buddy,” yelled Bessie in a loud, cackling voice. “I figured it all out last night. You’re trying to change me, aren’t you? Well, I’m here to tell you it ain’t gonna work.”
Granted, many of those who resist change are not as dramatic as Bessie in their behavior or their lack of desire for personal transformation. Still, the results are always about the same. Like Bessie, there is little lasting change. Bessie’s story and the stories of many like her share one thing in common: the stated desire for change was illusory.
The simple fact is if change is to happen in your life, you have to truly desire it. Like anything of value in life, change begins with desire. I repeat:
Every positive accomplishment begins as a desire in the mind of the individual. Desire is the initial force that gives birth to our dreams and it is desire that motivates us to achieve those dreams. All great things begin with positive desire.
I encourage you to begin with an honest, gut-level assessment of your desire to change. You have to ask yourself, “Is my desire for change genuine? Am I willing to, if necessary, make personal sacrifices in order to reach my desired goal of personal transformation?” If you answer these questions in the negative, that’s ok. It just means you are not yet ready to change yourself and your life. If this is the case, my suggestion is for you to pray to God, asking him to impart to you a willingness to change. Be sensitive to anything the Lord may be trying to communicate to you regarding change and/or willingness to change. Keep a journal and write down any insights or messages that may come to you. Go back later and reflect on what you have written, pray about it, and see what happens next. Even the unwillingness to change can be an avenue through which the Holy Spirit can help you to grow spiritually.
If you conduct an honest, thorough assessment of your desire to change and you discern that it is genuine, it is time to take the next step. You need to begin, through prayer and planning, to set goals for personal change and make specific plans for how this transformation might be facilitated. Enjoy where you are at that moment, because you are on your way to becoming a better version of yourself. Keep in mind that as you grow, you are increasingly able to realize the divine potential that God has placed inside you. You are more and more able to discern your strengths of character and put those very strengths into practice where it really counts, your everyday life. And one more thing, do it all for the glory of God. Like Jesus, your ultimate goal in personal change is to increasingly put yourself in a condition where you can glorify God.
Doing so was a big part of Christ’s mission on earth; and it is equally a big part of yours.
© L. Dwight Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved