How do you change people? How do you change yourself?
We all want to positively impact people around us, but how do we do it?
It’s an age-old question that’s probably more relevant now than in any other time in recent history. Just between politics, racial tension, and vaccinations, we’re experiencing more friction now than we have in a generation.
We may not agree on much, but we can all agree that things need to change. Not everything, but a growing list of important things. The good news is, positive change is very simple to accomplish. The tough news is, it’s simple, it’s just not easy.
But here are the steps to changing people (and yourself):
Step #1: Stop tearing down what you don’t like
The truth we like to avoid is that the issues we see around us didn’t pop up overnight. They’ve been there all along beneath the surface. Circumstances just have a way of forcing ugly things to light that were down deep all along in our nature, and – as usual – we go to work addressing the symptoms. Then, after a while, we wonder why we’re so frustrated and hopeless when we don’t get the results we want.
Don’t get me wrong, addressing symptoms and making quick fixes to things we want to change is essential. But nothing truly changes until things fundamentally shift in the human heart. To make that happen, we have to approach people the same way we approach remodeling a house.
Think about it. If you want to remodel a house, does it make sense to start by jabbing a screwdriver through the walls? Not only is that ineffective, but it just creates more work in the long run. Just because you don’t like what you currently see in the house doesn’t mean you should tear it up. In fact, the opposite is true. The best way to create something valuable is to build up what you have, not devalue what you dislike.
Honestly, sometimes things do need to be removed entirely. Sometimes there’s a need for a complete removal of one aspect of a house. Sometimes a wall has to come down. In those times, if it’s not a load-bearing wall, then we can knock it down completely with a sledge hammer, clean up the aftermath, then move forward. But those are few and far between. More often than not, building up what’s currently there is more effective, efficient, and safer than tearing down and starting over.
That leads us to the second step:
Step #2: Start building up what you want to see more of
If your goal is to build up a house into a beautiful and reliable structure that everyone can feel good about living in, but you dislike the wallpaper on one of the walls, does it make sense to tear down the entire wall?
Better yet, imagine that you’re building new and improved sections onto your house, and as you’re building the add-ons, everytime you walk through the old sections of the house, you hit the walls and floors with a hammer just because you don’t like them? Is the house better off for the damage you’ve inflicted? Were your blows effective in building up the house as a whole? Does it make sense to damage the walls and hope the house improves? Of course not. So why do we do that to each other?
Why do we continue to point out what we don’t like about each other, what we don’t like about the government, and what we don’t like about society as a whole? Has that ever worked in the past to bring positive lasting change? No.
Positive change has almost always happened when someone was able to look past what they didn’t like about a situation in order to drive towards the positive change they wanted. They put aside their unhelpful opinions and emotions. Then they tactfully and wisely said what needed to be said but only when it needed to be said, how it needed to be said, and to whom it needed to be said.
Because at the end of the day, it’s pretty simple:
In order to build a better house, you have to build up what you don’t like, even when the easier thing would be to tear it apart. Otherwise you just make the whole house uglier and less stable to the point where the whole thing could collapse.
You have to invest in – or build up – what you want to see change as much as you don’t like it and as counter-intuitive as it feels.
Because the only way to change the human heart – and the hearts of an entire generation – is to build up and not destroy.
Look, opinions are easy. Like the old saying goes: “Opinions are like armpits – everyone has them and they all stink”.
Love, on the other hand, is difficult. Building up what you don’t like is difficult. But it’s the only way to build a house. Because no one’s built anything by poking holes in stuff.