Before I was ordained as a Catholic priest I ran a business training and personal development company called Working Hero. One of the things we discussed with individuals and business managers was the psychology of change.
I would shock the audience by saying, “Think of that homeless person you saw last week. He wants to be there.” After the first gasp of horror from my audience I would continue, “Think about that alcoholic relative you have, that friend who is overweight or the family member who is stuck in a destructive cycle. They chose that. They want to be there.”
Having got the discussion started I went on to explain that change only happens when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the pain of the possible change. I asserted that positive change is possible, but real, positive and lasting change requires extreme determination, perseverance and hard work with few short term results and many disappointments and defeats. We don’t change because we perceive that the pain of the status quo is less than the pain of change.
Within the ensuing heated discussion calmed down I admitted that many people are trapped in circumstances beyond their control, that they suffer from illnesses and addictions that seem impossible to overcome. Nevertheless, I said there were many programs to help those who really wanted to go on the long road of positive and permanent change.
The same is true of our spiritual and moral lives. Many of us are trapped in a cycle of lust and shame. We’re trapped in a downward spiral of a dead end job, a loveless marriage or an inner dynamic of rage, bitterness, anger and blame. It doesn’t have to be that way. It really doesn’t have to be that way if we profess to be disciples of Jesus Christ. The help is available if we really want to embrace the possibility of change.
Human help is available through Catholic social networks, support groups, prayer groups and parish pastoral care. More importantly, supernatural help is available through the graces we receive in the sacraments, prayer, meditation and being involved in the corporal works of mercy. The more we live the dynamic Catholic life the more the other changes we long for being to happen in our lives.
The change, however, is not instant and it is not easy. There is a price for positive and permanent change. The price is pain. We have to make an effort and exert ourselves. Along with God’s grace and mercy we need self discipline, perseverance and support.
Do you want to change this year? Are you discouraged because every year you want to do better, but every year it is the same old failure? Start first by realizing that change only happens when we regard the pain of change to be less than the pain of the status quo. Only then will we have the get up and go that is required to get up and go to that new place and become that new person Christ calls us to be.