Skip to main content

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)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If there's a will, there's a way.

For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year.
What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…

Fasting from Discouragement, Making Visible the Good

So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.

But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…