Susie and Howard have been married twenty years. It has been a long, hard road. They have fought, made up, separated, reconciled, and fought over again and again. The issues have changed, but they have not changed. What they do to trigger each other and their responses are like steps in a well-choreographed dance.
Now, looking at two decades of verbal and emotional abuse, they both wonder if the other person can change. Sometimes at their most honest moments, they even look in a mirror and wonder if they themselves can change. Most of us can relate to such struggles and moments of wondering and hoping that people can change. But is it possible?
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NASB).
The Christian faith would seem to clearly be promising that a substantial and transforming change in people is possible, through the proper application of the gospel into our lives. Now Paul knows in dealing with the Corinthians, whose community is filled with massive moral, theological and social faults, that it is not as easy as just trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and all will be well. The Apostle seems to believe that real change is possible, through an in-depth application of the Christian faith but not by a merely superficial confession of faith.
The first step to change is recognizing the core beliefs, convictions, and “life commandments” that are the roots of all actions and attitudes. This can be done by taking the time to do a “life inventory,” in which a person divides up their life into segments or “chapters” and makes a list of critical events in each segment:
- People and events that harmed me
- People and events that helped me
- People that I harmed
- People that I helped
- Times when I felt that God harmed me
- Times when I felt that God helped me
- Other important events hard to define
By each event a brief description should be written of the ways people hurt us and helped us, along with ways we have hurt and helped others.
This is only for you, so just write a few words that for you would describe the event. We include “God sightings” in this process because our belief about God can be a key factor in how we react to life.
What have we learned?
After we have outlined the key events in our lives, then we need to ask ourselves under each segment or “chapter” of our lives, what was it that we learned from this event?
What beliefs, convictions, outlooks, vows, promises, proverbs, life lessons or life commandments did we frame out of our pain or gain? It is out of these experiences that most of us have created the “mind program” that is running our lives. The problem is that there can be “viruses” in that program which make us very dysfunctional.
For help in working your way through this process go to: www.soulshepherding.org/2015/04/mapping-your-spiritual-journey/ or onelifemaps.com.
These resources would help you to carefully and prayerfully go through this method. They also could aid you in deepening the activity in various ways.
Once you have identified one key “life commandment” which you see as destructive and harmful, how do you change it?
For example, one man had been told by his parents that life was good, until he was born. The life commandment that he developed from these harmful words was that it would be better for him to die than live. This created in him a very deep desire to take his own life.
This dark craving was with him from childhood through his early adult years. But then through this process, he was able to identify this lie and see how destructive it had been in his life.
Once he could see this, then he could act in the following ways:
- Asked the Lord to overcome this lie
- Wrote a true replacement for his “love of death” self-talk, which focused on love of life
- Debated this idea whenever it came to mind by telling himself– “God chose me to be born, so it was a good idea!”
- Developed a “I want to be alive” self-talk exercise that he read to himself for 90 days. (livingwaterchristiancounseling.org/how-to-stop-love-of-death-self-talk/ )
- Prayerfully Journaled his feelings and processed through his purpose for life. (www.causeastir.us/shop/write-for-your-soul )
- Purposely wrote down the good that his life had caused in other people and reviewed it. (Philippians 4:1-8)
- Developed a pattern of life that included daily nurture of the soul. (Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You byJohn Ortberg)
The man is now free of suicidal thoughts and is leading a productive Christian life. He continues to find negative life commandments and renew his soul day by day through the processes he has been taught.
So, can people change? Yes, they can. How about you?
Dr. Norman Wise is the Executive Director of Living Water Christian Counseling and host of “Ask the Counselor” on GraceNetRadio.com. Living Water can be reached at 954-726-2303.