On Faith: Discover self to identify areas for change

December 25, 2010|Mark S. Miller

A century ago, the Times of London invited writers to answer the question, "What's wrong with the world?"

Essayist Gilbert Chesterton's answer was the shortest of those submitted. He simply wrote: "Dear Sirs: I am."

In those two words, Chesterton marked the gap between our aspirations and our accomplishments; he acknowledged the distance separating what we wanted our life to be and what it had become.

People are practiced in identifying how others should change, while forgiving their own behaviors. Following a sermon in which the rabbi chastised his congregation for a variety of misdeeds, a worshipper approached and said, "Excellent sermon, rabbi. You really gave it to them. They really needed to hear that. I hope they were listening. They really need to change."


Tolstoy lamented: "Everyone thinks of changing humanity, but no one thinks of changing himself." It is much easier to reckon how "they" should correct their lives than to identify our own deficiencies and take up the laborious task of self-improvement.

It is said that New Year resolutions "go in one year and out the other." It is a principle of human personality that individuals tend to respond consistently. Late comers can be counted on to be tardy, punctual people will regularly be on time, charitable people are generally amenable to giving, and the self-centered are often unresponsive.

Most of us are comfortable with ourselves, accustomed to our behaviors and deeply ingrained responses. They are difficult to reshape.

We say: "I'm set in my ways," "I'm not ready," "You are asking too much of me," or "I'm too old." People detail to me their shortcomings, but conclude: "What can I do? That's just who I am."

In our personal lives we reflect Newton's First Law of Motion: an object at rest tends to stay at rest.

The stubborn truth is that people are stubborn and for some to change is like reversing the course of a river, for while people want things to get better, they don't want to change.

But trying to change others without changing our selves is like trying to clean the dirty face we see in the mirror by scrubbing the glass. However vigorously we scour the mirror, our reflection will not improve. It is only by washing our own face that we can alter the image.

Change requires change. If we think what we thought, say what we said, and do what we did, we will have what we had. After all, if nothing changes, nothing changes.

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