Can people really change? I mean lasting changes that you can count on? Or once someone shows you what is in their character, is it just in their character?
I believe people can change. I know it. I have seen it. But I also know that there has to be an internal transformation in order for lasting change to take place. So how do you know when that has occurred?
#1) Words Change – They learn the words that you need to hear. Recovery words. “I know my behavior hurt you, and I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.” “I wish I’d never . . .” “That’s not the person I want to be.”, etc. Please, please, please, however, do not settle for only their words changing. Most all of us have experienced a time when our partners words changed, but the problem behavior ultimately did not. That is because even though they may be sincere when they say them, changing the words is easy, to change ourselves, is hard! So the words only go so far.
#2) Behavior Change – They have new behaviors that seem to indicate change. They don’t drink or look at porn or get angry any more, they spend more time with the kids, or with you. They may go to counseling or meetings. Their addictive behavior, whatever it is, seems to have changed, but can you count on it? Is that enough? Does that predict long term success? Not particularly. Anyone can change for a short period of time. And sometimes they change the behavior, but their thinking and attitudes are still problematic and difficult.
#3) Heart change – This is how you know for sure that someone has changed. They can see their behavior as an extension of themselves. They accept that it is part of who they are and there is an absence of pride with it! Get that? An absence of pride is present. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that they have to go around flogging themselves for the rest of their lives, but when it comes to the topic of whatever they needed to change, they are humble. Consistently humble. They can talk about how it hurt you, they can apologize for it again and again with a genuine humble heart. They face who they have to face make amends for their behavior. They willingly and proactively seek out recovery for their problem behavior. They are determined to understand why they did whatever they did and to get to the bottom of it so that they will not be that way again. And most importantly, you aren’t driving the process for them, they are!
People who have truly changed have undergone a transformation. They openly own the part of themselves that caused problems. They no longer try to minimize, defend, shift blame, or otherwise detract from it. They demonstrate over time that they will never go back to their prior behavior because they have decided for themselves that it is not good for them – regardless of what’s going on in their lives. Their words, behaviors and humble attitude towards their unhealthy behavior all match and continue to do so over time. This is change that you should be able to count on!