People Never Change…

“Willingness involves the acceptance that one is not in absolute control, thus opening up the possibility of being changed…” — Ernest Kurtz, The Spirituality of Imperfection 

Have you ever heard the phrase, or has somebody ever told you, “people never change”? I’ve heard this plenty of times. And probably used to believe it, too.

Seeing as I’m over 18 months sober, I obviously don’t subscribe to that line of thinking anymore.

And since the human experience is best illustrated through storytelling — here’s one.

I was in Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago looking for Vitamin E oil. I like to make my own lotion bars and wanted to use a gift card I got from a friend for my birthday. I turned left into the health and wellness isle — or whatever they call it — and accidentally “snuck up” on this lady holding a beer in one hand and a dog in the other. She said, “Oh my gosh, you were so quiet. I didn’t see you!”. I replied jokingly, “You’re probably the first person to tell me I’m quiet.” She walked away exclaiming, “Well — you know what they say, people never change.”

There was a lot of self-righteous tongue biting going on at this point.

A year ago I probably would have gone into an in-depth monologue about how people can absolutely change. Passionately defending my case by using my personal recovery as an example for fear that if I didn’t change this stranger’s mind immediately that somehow that would my miracle meaningless.

But I didn’t. I simply laughed it off, picked out my ridiculously-overpriced oil and went on my grateful, merry way.

Really the only thing that went through my mind was — thank God that’s not true! 

Flash forward two weeks later…

Of the many reads I have open right now, Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham’s The Spirituality of Imperfection happens to be one of them. Every sentence in that book is like pure spiritual gold, but this one really my attention.

“Willingness involves the acceptance that one is not in absolute control, thus opening up the possibility of being changed—being open to what change is possible even if one is not in control.”

“People never change.”

“No, but they can be changed.”

Subtle, yet effective.

Damn it! That would have been the perfect response to that lady at the store.

Oh well. I’m bound to come across this overly-used, but glaringly-false phrase about humanity at some point again. I’ll put that one in my back pocket for future use.

It seems that without fail, every single time I tried to change — tried to stop drinking, tried to be better, to do better — I just couldn’t do it. Some how, some way I’d end up drunk acting like an asshole all over again. Why? because I was trying to do the changing. I was trying to wish my way to sanity miserably unaware that “no human power could have relieved me of my alcoholism”. (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)

The idea of being changed, as opposed to changing, reminds of the hoodoos at Bryce National Park.

They are not willfully sculpted, but rather, changed by the wind, rain, snow and ice. Day, after day, year, after year.

A beautiful, unending dance of acceptance and surrender.

2 thoughts on “People Never Change…

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