In this truth lies hope: people can and do change. You may be thinking, “Yeah, right. You haven’t met _______. He/she will never change.” Is there anything more frustrating than someone you have to deal with like a co worker or classmate (or worse, a family member or spouse!) who just seems to enjoy being stubborn? You can’t remember the last time they changed their behavior for anybody’s benefit. They seem to be the Immovable Object, and they seem to like it.
If we’re not careful, we will buy into the lie that the person we’re thinking of will never change. The truth is every person can change, but they have to want to change. Ah, so that’s why they don’t change, not because they can’t but because they don’t think they need to.
We are all by nature stubborn and self centered creatures. We don’t usually like change, even if it’s our idea. It’s easier (less work) to just leave things the way they are, even if the way things are aren’t necessarily all that great. Sometimes it takes a lot to make someone think they need to change. And it’s usually not an “aha” moment or a new awareness that motivates someone to change, but a sense of losing something. I love the phrase, “People change when they feel the heat, not when they see the light.”
So I’ve learned to pray differently for folks who don’t seem like they will ever change. I’ve learned to stop praying that they won’t feel the heat, and take a less painful route by seeing the light. I’m learning that when a person feels the heat of bad choices or the fear of losing something or someone valuable to them, it’s not always a bad thing. The “heat” someone feels can create a desire within them to change could be just the reason God allowed it in the first place.
God woos us to Himself and the goodness of life with beauty (“seeing the light”). Because His desire to personally connect with each one of us is so super important to Him, if beauty doesn’t woo us away from our stubborn self centered agenda, He will allow the heat, hoping it will accomplish this most important task.
Consider this: ask some folks you admire to share a bit of their life journey that brought them to where they are, and I’ll bet most will tell you about a time of feeling the heat, and how grateful they are that the heat helped them arrive where they are now.
So keep praying for change in those stubborn folks around you that can sometimes drive you nuts. You just might want to consider praying a little differently, praying for light or heat, and allow (trust) God to work in the way He knows is best for that person.
Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.