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The Only Person We Can Change

Somewhere along the line, I picked up an image of humanity that -- to the degree I can remember and apply its truth -- is tremendously liberating. I share it with you as a pretty good way to enrich your Lent.

The image is that of everyone being locked up in their own individual cage.

Imagine, for a second, every single human being locked up in their own personal cage… a prisoner… captive somehow, to their own limiting beliefs, or deeply ingrained habits, or regrets, or fears.

If it’s difficult to picture all of humanity that way, just picture someone close to you… your spouse, child, or parent, or a close friend or colleague. With just a little bit of thought, you can probably see their cage… some way they are imprisoned, captive to a limiting belief, habit, regret, or fear.

Now here’s the second part of that image: every single human being, standing in those cages, also holds in his or her hand a key.

The key fits one lock, and one lock only.

Most of us assume our key can unlock other people’s cages and so -- well intentioned -- we spend a considerable amount of time and energy reaching across to other people’s cages, trying to fix other people’s problems, trying to make our key fit their lock.

It’s frustrating work, because our key only fits one lock, and that is the lock on our own cage.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus asks (Matthew 7:3).

In other words, in any relationship, there is only person we can change, and that is us.

Now it’s important to point out that just as changing one part of a mathematical formula affects everything around it, changing ourselves -- changing our self -- affects everyone around us, for better or worse.

But there’s a huge difference -- all the difference in the world! -- between “affecting others” (as a byproduct of our own change) and “attempting to change others” per se.

So…you want some liberating news?

Your key doesn’t fit your spouse’s cage…your parents’ cage…your child’s cage…or anyone else’s cage. It fits your cage.

And even more liberating news is this: by the grace of God, each person you love has their own key, too.

So let’s focus our energy on changing the one person we can: our self.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
(Marianne Williamson)


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