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Can people change?

Butterfly

“I ran into Mike from high school the other day. He hasn’t change one bit. He is still the same guy as he always was.”

Is that possible? Can one live 25 years and remain unchanged? Does our core “self” remain encapsulated, a psychic operating system, that can never be altered or even hacked? Is who I was as a child who I am today? I was an inquisitive child, curious and boisterous. If I had a nickel for everytime my father said, “Put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in motion.” I would retire today, even in this economy. His hammering directives eventually sunk in. I am far more tactful, deferring to vocalize my opinion and not needing to shout and flap to catch the attention of my parents, teachers or peers. So, have I changed? I think so. Maturity is the evolution of developmental milestones. While once I could not walk, I learned by crawling and creeping. I can now run and dance. Once I could not speak but I learned by babbling and gooing. I was a complete jabberjaws through most of my primary education. I am far less talkative now than ever in my life. Now I like listening. Emotionally, I was once reactive, flint-like in my my responses.

Now, we all love babies. We love puppies and kitties. We are entertained by the silliness and innocence, but eventually, we thrill in watching their growth and change. Change means independence. Change means forging a defined path of an individual. And while I may have core ingredients obtained from basic genetic pairing and the incubator of my childhood, I have fashioned those building blocks into my own design. I can deconstruct myself and make myself anew. I know God created in me a complete being in His image. I have all the divinity one might need to be His reflection. He also gave me the free will to select my nature. But can my nature change? Can a warmonger be converted to peacemaking? Can one who hates learn to love? Can the miser give generously? Can the faithless find hope? Are these not the true values that define us?

I believe people change. I think they can by choice. I think they can be compressed into change. The Lord can change one’s heart, if you are open to it. Near death can change you too. There is a reckoning in these spaces; we reassess the meaning of our lives and our worth on this speck of dirt. In retrospect, if I have been fearful, timid, anxious, brash, mean, selfish, stingy, greedy or just unhappy, I can be different. It is the purest, simplest gift we were given by God…..FREE WILL. I determine myself.

So I hope, truly hope, that when my old, long ago friends come upon me they say, “She has changed so much!” And that the change is obviously more beautiful, more generous, kinder, quieter, more reflective and more industrious. That all that was good in me seems amplified and those things I may have lacked in my youth I have cultivated. Survival demands change and evolution. Resisting it can mean the demise of your very existence.

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  1. I think that there is a separation between Genotype and Phenotype. This is why identical twins raised in different houses can be completely different individuals in spite of identical genetic makeups.

    We have some traits perhaps that do not change, I would not go so far as to say cannot change but some things are harder to change than others. I think that most of what we see a person as is fairly malleable. Things like trustworthiness, compassion, generosity, faith, bravery, honor etc are all able to be learned and unlearned. Furthermore, we are able to define and redefine these words. But there is some core part of us that is a rate limiting factor. Even the most malleable substances in the world at a certain point shatter instead of forming to our will. Introverts may be able to become more extroverted to a limit, or for a limited time.

    But change is a choice and often times is work. Does everyone change with time? Yes, even if we remain static we sink in. We become harder to change, more entrenched. And that in and of itself is a change. But usually it means the changes aren’t so external. I hold a lot of the same values I did 10 years ago, but I hold them for very different reasons and in very different ways.

    And we are also the connections we have, so as these change, varying in intensity and existence, we too change. I am happy to have shed some of these connections, believe myself better for it. Other connections I am sad to see reduce in vibrancy, I watch the energy wane and the line fade with a quiet sadness.

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