Key Ingredients of Change

Over and over again I hear people talk about what brings about change in a person. Especially for folks struggling with sexual integrity issues like pornography, visiting prostitutes, strip clubs or massage parlors. Once sexually addicted, the question becomes even more difficult to answer. Psychotherapy and counseling some people say. Only God, others say. Circumstances. The twelve steps. Crisis.

I’m going to suggest there are 3 key ingredients that facilitate change. Sure, we can name a bunch of things that help, but I’m suggesting that if these 3 aren’t present, true change will not occur.

First, being unwilling to accept our personal status quo. I was talking with Shelley last night and, after she expressed a way I had hurt her, thought about the reality that I’m kind of tired of being me. At least, I’m tired of that part of me; that way of living. We all know that feeling where we just sort of realize we’ve become comfortable with the status quo. The question becomes: will we do something about it? People who are unwilling to change reach a point where they consider it adequate to measure the present against the past. The mindset here is saying, “at least I’m not who I used to be” instead of “I’m not yet who I could be, who God is calling me to be”. If we want to guarantee change, we cannot accept that who we are today will suffice for the future God has for us. We must be unwilling to accept our personal status quo.

Second, we must challenge our constants. Sounds pretty underwhelming, I know, but it can be surprising how much we’re willing to accept about ourselves because it’s how we’ve always been. We land at our age, be it 25, 45, 55, 75 years old and we’re “just the way we are”. But how’d we get there? Because we didn’t challenge the constants. To guarantee change is to question our norms, our standards and our default settings. It is to question our motives, why we believe what we believe and why want to believe what we believe. It means we have to question the narrative by which we live, and ask ourselves where it would be more meaningful to just tear up the script.

Third, in order to change we need to humbly submit ourselves to people who are unwilling to accept our personal status quo and who will challenge our constants. You know the people who, when you bring something up and sort of know what their response is going to be, blind-side you with some out-of-left-field question that puts you on your heels? Those are the folks I’m talking about. One of my accountability partners in the early days, Kurt, would always ask “5 whys” when he was digging into something in me. He’d take my first answer and toss it like garbage. Then my second, he’d give a little “hmm” and challenge a 3rd answer to be more insightful. Eventually, even if we didn’t get to 5 (which when we did was super-frustrating and made me hate Kurt some mornings!), we went beyond the status quo, beyond the easy answer, and deeper than I typically thought.

Maybe the people that do that for you are your accountability partners. Perhaps it’s a counselor. Maybe it’s the pastor you listen to on Saturdays or Sundays. Could be the guys at poker night. It might even be what you read that does it for you. We have to humbly submit ourselves to people who won’t let us stay the same.

I believe if we’ll adopt a posture of humility, submit to others’ input, challenge ourselves, and stop measuring progress by what we’re not doing anymore we actually make ourselves malleable. We become willing to see what we were once blind to, and become perceptive to what the Spirit prompts in us. We become moldable in the hands of God to be made like his son.

5 thoughts on “Key Ingredients of Change

  1. Great Post. You mentioned your friend who asked you the “five whys”. I have also found the “why” questions invaluable in handling temptations. When I feel the first metaphorical drink being offered, perhaps an invitation to indulge a sinful memory or perhaps to fantasize, asking myself the “why” questions often expose the lies those temptations contain:

    “Now tell me, WHY would this be satisfying? It never satisfied you in the past. You always needed more and more and then felt rotten afterward.”
    “Do you suppose women like being treated that way? WHY? Are they perhaps victims themselves answering their own pain with destructive behavior? So WHY do you wish to participate in their incremental destruction? WHY do you wish to become a perpetrator in their lives?”
    “Sex outside of a man and woman married relationship is an act of spiritual violence. WHY do you wish to harm another?”

    Asking myself enough of those sorts of questions soon unmasks the temptation and it begins to look pretty ugly. Also, given that we are tempted where we are weak in our thinking, that we are tempted to do wrong because at least in part we want to believe lies about ourselves and who God is, the “why” questions can lead us to face the reasons for this. Ultimately we can be led to the harm that has named us and distorted our view of God, those lies that have framed how we view life, other people, the world around us. We ALWAYS act out of belief, regardless of what we ought to believe as Christians, or what we say we believe.

    “Why” questions are wonderful for causing us to dig deep, to cut through the comfortable but wrong and harmful packaging of the past. Courageously torture that temptation and it will tell you the truth!

  2. Thanks Jason. I often think that ‘this is just who I am’ or ‘look how much better I am than I used to be’ both of these attitudes are against Gods plan and purpose for my life. He doesn’t want me to settle. He wants me to give Him my best effort to grow and change. No more settling. Time to get moving again. Thx!

  3. What you say is every true, but a man must be willing to go back to the point in his life when he lost trust in people and decided to take care of himself. One needs to do it with a trained therapist. It is usually an abandonment by his father or father figure. Also can be his mother. Less likely other people. To often we go through the 12 steps or work on the addiction with a counselor, and even get into support groups, but we never really solve the problem that caused that addiction because we never go back to the root cause. I know, I have been there. But thanks to a counselor who knew that we had to get to the root cause, I am free today.
    It took a long list of a father who failed me and a lot of real tears to forgive my father and to trust God to be the father to me my dad never was.

    • “To often we go through the 12 steps or work on the addiction with a counselor, and even get into support groups, but we never really solve the problem that caused that addiction because we never go back to the root cause.”

      Amen!

      For addict/idolators, the addictive behavior is actually not the problem. It is the solution. That is why we go back to it and why its draw on us seems so strong. The problem is much deeper and if we manage to stop our addictive behavior (and we must do that) but haven’t answered the root problem, we will be sure to find a new “solution”: Porn leaves, enter rage, intimacy anorexia, over eating, alcohol, drugs, over-occupation with hobbies, and the list goes on and on.

      Nobody likes to unpack the “denial” box, the one that packages up the childhood experiences and might be labeled:

      “my parents were good people and did the best they could, my childhood was fun and innocent like Disney World, I grew up in a loving and nurturing home.”

      The actual contents are likely to shake the foundations of one’s world. One’s very identity may be found to be nothing more than an artificial creation, a protective reaction to trauma, or a role that an addict parent has foisted upon them.

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