We have probably all heard this statement: There are two kinds of people in this world . . . . There are those who like winter and those who do not. There are folks who like lutefisk and those who do not. There are people who like cats and those who do not. There are those who like Beethoven and those who do not. Typically the statement sets apart two different groups of people, and we all fall into one group or the other. We can quickly identify the group we are in, the group in which we feel most comfortable and most compatible.
The two groups I want to consider in this article are people who are available for change and people who are not. I am referring to positive change, the kind of change that people seek when they come for counseling. This is very important to determine early in order to be able to be help. Here are some characteristics to consider. People who are available for change: 1. Are open to negative as well as positive feedback about themselves, 2. Are quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19), 3. Are able to learn from past mistakes and work at not repeating them, 4. Are able to accept responsibility for their feelings and behavior, and 5. Are empathetic. The lack of any one of these character qualities is an indication of someone who resists change. Another way of saying it is that there are two kinds of people, those who are humble and those who are prideful.
There is a reason the Bible says, “Pride goes before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) Pride leads to all kinds of trouble and unhappiness. Since pride does not allow for personal insight, there is no option for change. When pride is present, there is no tolerance of negative feedback, and defensiveness is necessary to protect the fragile ego. The prideful person is quick to talk and get angry and slow to listen. They cannot acknowledge past mistakes, so learning from them is ruled out. To protect their self-concept, they typically blame others rather than accept responsibility. They are not characterized by empathy and thinking about the needs of others. Thus, they are unable to experience healthy relationships. Being in relationship with an “unavailable for change” person is work. It is a ministry, but it is not a healthy relationship. Prideful people require first of all to be humbled.
It is important to do some self-assessment regarding these four characteristics. We all need to check ourselves regularly regarding humility and being a person who is available for change. It is also important to understand the people closest to us. Awareness of others provides information concerning how to minister to them and how to relate to them. Prideful people are not capable of healthy, reciprocal relationships. While we cannot choose our biological family relationships, we can choose to relate to them with unconditional love and kindness. We can choose to relate to them out of the person we are as opposed to reacting to the person they are, and we can set appropriate boundaries.
We need to be careful about relationship choices that are not biological. Define each non-family relationship. Decide if a specific person is someone who is available for change or not. Decide if a specific person is humble, pseudo humble, or prideful. Decide if a person has relationship potential or if they are a ministry. It is fine to minister to others, but it is imperative to know the difference. Ministry boundaries require that we minister to those who need us, but it is not a mutual relationship. We are there for them, but they cannot be there for us.
Moving from change resistant to being open to change takes time and comes in degrees. Sometimes we will be better at “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” then other times, for instance. It is a day-by-day process which may require professional coaching. If we ever think we have arrived at humility with no further need for improvement, beware!! That is 100% pride.
May God help you to become the humble, available-for-change person He desires,