The concept of change and progress is one of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human. We cannot live life if we have no sense of progress or movement forward. Just as fundamental it is to us personally, it is also key in our relationships. Just as we seek progress in our own lives we seek to spread it into the lives of the people around us. There is very little that is more rewarding and enriching than to be able to live a life that is exerting positive influence and change into the lives that we touch.
This can also one of the most painful and challenging areas of life. A person can achieve a great many things in life and yet still feel crippled in their ability to influence and effectively touch the lives of the people around them. Whether it be a coworker, a family member or a close friend, we are often befuddled in our attempts to reach out and effectively impact their actions and lives.
We see how wrong they are and bend over backwards to try to gently remind, instruct or redirect them. But often times it only leads to greater alienation.
How do we help people truly change?
For some reason, we are often under the impression that if only they had enough information regarding their bad choices, the light bulb will go off in their head and they will turn around. After all, to us it seems so crystal clear that what they are doing is wrong. Their ignorance leads them to make unwise choices. Surely they will change once they realize their misdirected state, right?
Of course not.
Be honest with yourself. How do you change? Do we not realize the hypocrisy of our own hearts when we feel entitled to “enlighten” others in life when we ourselves recoil from those who, we sense, are seeking to correct us?
The pride of human nature kicks in when it senses that someone is coming at them head on or from above to correct them and closes the door to their heart. People are not changed when they are merely informed head on concerning their ignorance or lack of perspective. Mere information doesn’t change a stubborn heart.
So what does? One simple word – life.
People are changed when they are exposed to the open heart and life of one who lives differently. They are changed when something about the life of someone who comes alongside stands out to them, appeals to them and draws them in. One must win the heart before they can ever win the mind. And the heart requires much humility, love and openness.
There is something that is deeply appealing to us about an open and giving life, a life that in humility seeks to get to know and build others up. Perhaps it is the fact that the world is full of criticism and competition. We all have much information regarding our weaknesses and deficits.
It is interesting that this is the precise model for change that permeates the whole New Testament. God does not accomplish change in the world by merely condemning it with all that it does wrong. He does not send mere information. He sends himself. He comes into the world and connects with us at our deepest level. He offers his life as a payment in order to open the door of new life and restoration for us. He changes our hearts and brings us to himself. And he begins the work of change in us, one step at a time.
The more this process fills our own lives, the more we are able to pass it on to the lives of those around us.