Is It Possible for People to Change?

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell from the 2022 movie “Spirited”

The Bible says “yes.” My therapist says “probably not.” In Scripture we are shown examples of people who changed over the course of their personal lamenting, confessing, repenting. Encounters with the Almighty – in any of those Three Persons (Creator, Christ, Holy Spirit) – will change a person.

And yet, in conversations with my therapist I’m told not to get my hopes up. (“It’s the hope that kills you,” as they say in Ted Lasso.) As many will go home for Christmas to spend time with parents and siblings, there is hope that Dad will finally be proud of me or Sister will not be so cruel or Grandma will not ask about my love life. As a pastor, I hear these stories and it puts a layer of dread on the holidays that are already dreadladen in other ways for so many people.

The movie “Spirited” asks the question, “Can people – particularly mean, selfish people – authentically change? It’s a Christmas movie so you can guess the answer without watching it. (Note: I’ve now seen it twice and can’t decide if it’s really good or really not good.”)

Life is short.

For those of us who grieve during these weeks around all the holidays, there is abundant awareness that some we love are no longer here and we play numbers games in our heads: “I’ve now spent more Christmases without my parents than with them.” “This could be the last Christmas for ____.” Pro Tip: listen to Anderson Cooper’s podcast on grief here or wherever you get your podcasts. The Stephen Colbert episode is especially poignant.

My life experience has taught me that we need to address trauma that haunts us, bitterness that stifles us, and resentments that blacken our own souls. Many (most?) people die without resolving past hurts.

Life is too short to avoid dealing with @#^!. I’m not saying that we must continue to subject ourselves to abuse by acting that the things that obliterated our joy can or should be easily forgotten. I am saying that things can be different. We cannot change someone else, but we can change ourselves. And part of changing ourselves might include accepting the fact that ___ will never change and then make decisions around that.

All I want for Christmas is for all of us who are unhappily estranged to take steps to change this season. Not New Year’s Resolution kinds of changes that fall away by January 4th. I’m talking about therapy and prayer – not necessarily in that order.

Life can be different. But it takes the will and the effort to change. I pray that each of us has an encounter with the Holy that helps us where we need it.

One response to “Is It Possible for People to Change?

  1. Pingback: The Enemies List | A Church for Starving Artists

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