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‘Lasting change’ is a phrase that speaks to us all because that’s exactly the character of the change that seems to elude us, year after year. We are not the first people who have walked the earth and noticed this phenomenon. Something about being human makes it difficult to change. It does seem possible. Over long periods of time, or perhaps after profound events like a crisis, we recognize that change has taken place within us. What’s frustrating is that what made it happen is unclear. And it always feels as if so much more within ourselves needs to change. What can we do to ensure we don’t waste our lives living within the same foolish attitudes to which we are habituated? Even when we have a eureka moment, who is to say we have not simply donned another foolish set of psychological glasses to replace the first? Let’s analyze three essential elements to breaking out of this predicament.
Three essential elements of breaking through
The starting point is that each one of us lives within the sphere of our own ideology. By ‘ideology’, I mean the whole philosophy of the world and the way it works you’ve worked out so far. In a way, this bubble is quite rigid, and it’s important to realize that. Why do I say this? Well, try to remember if somebody has ever given you rebuke. I mean proper rebuke about your behavior or character. And it wasn’t out of anger that he gave it. And he was right. This is quite a moment. Someone has pinpointed the trait within you that skews the way you see things and the way you relate to the world. If you’re someone who’s sincere about growing, you won’t just brush this off. You’ll always remember this moment. Why is it so profound and meaningful? Because this trait is the color of the lens through which you see everything. Normally, you just take for granted that it is normal to relate to your wife or your child in a certain way. But you never saw until now that it is actually unfair, imbalanced, or even unjust.
There’s a secret here. We just don’t realize to what a massive extent our worldviews, our character traits, our ideologies determine how we see every person and thing in our lives, and the way we feel about the world as a whole.
There was a clerk at a Home Affairs Office who, every single time I saw her, was in the process of verbally abusing the person sitting in front of her. This was in a voice loud enough to draw attention. Many of the people in this unfortunate seat showed shock, embarrassment, or anger in response. And I reiterate it was every single time I was at the Office. Once I was at the office early. I was the first customer, and I was invited to sit before this lovely lady. She started off with a soft good morning and asked me to produce a certain document that I found I had forgotten. Her voice rose quickly to a scream and I was victim number one for the day, at 8.15 am. Under her breath, she sighed, ‘What is it with you people?’, before continuing.
Sadly, all the vivid reactions of those surrounding her, day after day, did nothing to teach her that her own attitude was the strange one. The fact the no other voice in the room rose nearly as loudly as hers, hour after hour, didn’t occur to her as proof that her own conduct was unusual. All the events of a day constituted yet more thorough proof, in her mind, for her pessimistic view of her job, people in general, and the world.
This is all of us. Every detail of every day confirms our own lame philosophies back to ourselves. In order to be even a little bit open to perceiving what’s actually going on – in relationships, in other people’s emotional worlds, in complex situations – we have to struggle like tigers to question our presumptions. The three essential elements of lasting change will fountain from this picture of reality.
The first element
The first of the three essential elements is responsibility. We need to recognize that wherever we feel the world is less than wonderful, it is only a recognition of our own shortcoming in knowing the world with clear eyes. It is only a sign that an old way of seeing or feeling still subsists within ourselves. This means we stop complaining and blaming other people for our unhappiness.
Of the three essential elements, this one really encapsulates them all. It’s the start to living a life with open eyes. It’s the start of mending our habit of ruining our relationships. It may be true that your best friend said something hurtful and unfair to you. But did you forget all the wonderful things they’ve done for you too? And don’t you also sometimes say stupid things? Stop ruminating on what happened and move on.
The second element
The second of the three essential elements are reminding yourself there’s a God. This is tremendously important. It implies so much for you. For example, it implies that nothing accidental happens to you or is said to you. The Great Designer determines exactly what you need to experience. Every detail of your day is a personal gift from the Creator. And this includes your friend’s thoughtless comment.
The third element
The third of the three essential elements is to instruct yourself each morning in a curt voice to ‘Lay down your arms!’ I’m serious. You are not in control. Whether or not you and your family will live in good health, will be bountifully sustained, will live in peace together is not up to you. You could try until you are blue in the face, but you’d never succeed in changing even one small detail of the Holy One’s decrees. So, rather than taking responsibility for what is out of your hands, take responsibility for what is. And that is your attitude. You have the power to choose to enter into this day in the spirit of a loving, trusting relationship with God. Submit to His will. Let your own expectations and wishes drift away like clouds. What He decrees is what will occur. No doubt about it.
Is this a lasting change?
No action when performed once can produce very long-lasting results. The same is true about any realization you have. You’ll need to keep realizing it again and again in different ways. What makes the effects of these three essential elements long-lasting is that you teach them to yourself every single morning. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘Remember now: Responsibility; There’s a God; Lay Down Your Arms. And then, yes, with time, the truth of your life will settle into you with a lasting permanence.