How Do People Change?

David Brooks of the New York Times wrote this opinion piece about a father who lambasted his grown children in an attempt to get them to change.

The dad, Nick Crews, sent an email to all of his adult children berating them for the bad decisions. The email was released to the public by one of the children who received it.  It is now known as the Crews Missile.

It’s tough, in your face, unapologetic and angry.  Obviously things had been welling up in Crews for a long time.  That’s usually the case when a person finally reaches the point of launching a missile.

Brooks takes Crews to task, not for his strong words or emotions, perse, but for the simple fact that people don’t change as a result of such vitriolic outbursts as the Crews Missile.

Brooks has his ideas of how you actually change a person.  i am not entirely in agreement with Brooks, but he is at least right in his starting point:

People don’t behave badly because they lack information about their shortcomings. They behave badly because they’ve fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they’re unable to escape.

The issue then is, how do people really change?  And, related to that, what role do others play in that change?

For the addict or the former addict, these questions are huge. Ultimately, change is possible because a person’s appetites and attitudes change.  And the deepest, longest-lasting change is possible because of the power of life over death which is demonstrated in the conquering life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He touched death itself and changed it.

i know that people who don’t follow Jesus make changes in their lives. Something inside an obese person clicks and they “get it” and they pursue health. No mention of Jesus. The same goes for people who quit smoking and deal with various kinds of bad habits.

But the kind of change that is permanent and gets to the root of the issues we face comes through the work of Christ. And the role that others have to play in the process  is that they consistently point us to Him.  There may be times for strong words. But mostly, it’s strong love and persistence that moves people along the road of change.

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