The older I get the more I realize there is very little in life I can control. My grandchildren get sick, neighbors struggle, friendships threaten to crumble and I am helpless to change the circumstances or the people in them.
It took about 20 minutes of marriage to realize I was pretty powerless to change my new bride. When our children reached their teen years the myth that I was in control evaporated almost completely. So… what can we do about anything?
A store owner was attempting to train a young man for a job as a checkout clerk. When he asked the trainee how his day was going, the young man responded, “Puttin’ money in is easy, and takin’ money out is easy. It’s makin’ change that’s the hard part.”
In real life, too, the easy part is to impulsively respond to the actions of the people around us. The hard part is “makin change.”
Often, our first response is to pray that God will change the people around us. And that’s okay. I would never discount the power of prayer. But prayers for those around us should be supplemented by a more important prayer: “God, please give me the strength to change where I need to change.”
No matter what situation we are facing, the most important change we can make is the inward change in ourselves.
It is so difficult to burn the mental list of all the faults we see in others and exchange it with a list of the attitudes and habits in our own life that need to be addressed.
As a parent of two children I found it very tempting to hope that some list of rules, or some magic parenting technique, would miraculously change our family. It has taken me too long to admit that it doesn’t work that way—not with any relationship.
We can occasionally use authority or guilt to manipulate people to change their outward behavior, but we’re helpless to change their basic character. Only they can change their basic character… and here’s the clincher,
- People will be most motivated to make changes in their lives when they see the changes in ours.
- Changes in the character of one person will affect the dynamic of all the people around him or her.
- It works kind of like a financial spread sheet. Changing the individual variables in the equation changes the outcome.
- I am the only variable I have the power to change.
Reinhold Niebuhr is accredited with this quote.
O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
The courage to change what can be changed,
and the wisdom to know the difference
Now I know the difference. By accessing God’s power to make changes in ME, I can change my world.[reminder]