Can People Change?

For a significant portion of every work day, I spend time with people that are trying to change.  Usually it’s their weight, their diet, their bad habits or their attitudes–things that are well within their ability to control. Sometimes they are things that we can’t control: their genetics, their medical problems, or other people’s choices.  [There is often a disproportionate amount of energy directed at things that can’t be changed instead of things that can be changed–it’s more than a little ironic.]   


I wish I had a nickel for every person that looked me in the eye and promised me that they would change: ‘Doc I’m going to lose 30 pounds, so lets NOT start any diabetes medications’. As a rule, people have great optimism about their ability to change. The problem is, they usually don’t.  I try to give folks encouragement about the weight they are going to lose, but to make contingency plans. ‘Lets begin the medication, and we’ll stop it as soon as you lose the weight’. Usually they stay on the medication and have more medication added on within 6 months. Yet they remain optimistic about the prospects of dramatic changes looming on the horizon. 


I’d take a dime for every person that asked me if I thought someone they cared deeply about would change.  My answer has alway be this: People can change . . . but they usually don’t. It’s sad reality, but totally unproductive to carry on with the unrealistic expectation that people change through the wishful thinking, badgering or nagging of others.

Perhaps it is part of our divine nature to believe that we (or those we love) have within us the potential to cast off the things about ourselves we don’t like and become the person we deeply want to be. It’s definitely part of human nature to cling to the hope that these changes will occur by wishing them into reality–without concerted and consistent effort on our part.  


I will readily concede that there is bias in the population I spend my work days with. But, that being said, we all have things about ourselves that we would like to change, but haven’t gotten around to doing the work to change them. Today I came across an awesome insight that speaks of our ability to affect ultimate change.



“The Lord works from the inside out.  The world works from the outside in.  The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums.  The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment.  The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”  Ezra Taft Benson



There is no amount determination or self-control sufficient to effect the kind of eternal change that each of us need to reach our true potential.  Such change requires a Savior. It is well and good to work on motivating ourselves to change those things that lie within our reach and power to control. For the big stuff, we need to look to Christ.


For our conversation is in heaven; from when we also look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:20-21


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One thought on “Can People Change?

  1. Thank you. Once again – very well said, as well as being an important reminder to take the moat out of my eye first, relying on Christ all the while.

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