Letting People Change
A couple nights ago, I was getting ready for bed when my roommate asked if I wanted to watch an episode of a TV show. I told him that I was tired and just wanted to go to bed. But, he said "You always go to bed late anyway." I thought about it for a moment, and ended up watching the episode with him.
It wasn't that I woke up any more tired than I would have been (maybe a little), but, as I was driving to work the next day, I thought to myself - why am I letting people's impressions or ideas or what they know about me dictate the way I live?
I think that it is a common thing to live to the standard that we are held to. People that have known us for a long time have their preconceived notions about us. That is in no way bad, they are close to us, and thus know us well. But, I think there's an issue in the fact that we sometimes live the standards people set for us, instead of living the standard that we should be setting for our own lives.
We all go through different stages and phrases in life, where we learn and grow and make different choies based on the knowledge we have then. We act in various ways based on our life experiences - the interactions we have with people, the way our parents raise us, the kind of media and entertainment we allow ourselves to partake of.
Here's the thing though. The impression that people have of us are solidified within the first few interactions with us, all the more so with family and friends, and so they treat us the way they always have. One of our family friends knew me as a teenager, and when I spent a few weeks with him recently, I don't think he was trying to treat me like a teenager, but, the kind of interactions we had, and the particular notions he had about my behavior surfaced again in the interactions we had. The same goes with family, my parents, cousins, and other people close to me.
I'll admit it, I was a crazy kid back in elementary, middle, high school - heck, even during my freshman year of college. After coming home from my mission though, I changed, or at least I'd like to think I have somewhat for the better. I work hard, I'm motivated, I want things in life - a good job, a beautiful family, a fulfilling life.
We sometimes hold people back from their true potential, I believe, by holding them to their old selves. But, here's the thing. People want to change, people want to be better than their 16-year old selves. I want to change, I want to be better than my 16-year old self. That maturity and quiet confidence that was severely lacking as I grew up? I want that now.
Telling someone that they should just do this or that because it's what they normally do anyway can prevent them from becoming not just who they might be able to become, but who they want to become. I believe that one of our purposes in life is help people along the way, to enable them. It's the physical help, the spiritual help. Sometimes, it's the emotional help, for want of a better word. It's encouraging them and telling them that we're comfortable with who they are, we love them for who they are. When we do that, then they are not bound by those prejudices, yes, prejudices that might hold them back.
I don't think people do it intentionally. We do that to the people we know and care for because that's the person we know. We're afraid of how that change might affect a multitude of things, but most of all, we're afraid of how that change might affect our relationship with them.
But, changing lives doesn't have to be dramatic or drastic. Frankly, it's not supposed to work that way. It's in those subtle changes where people learn to find themselves. They don't notice it, but you do, right? Those little changes, those improvements, make the man or woman.
So, help your friend, child, sibling, or even parent, along the way. If they want to make a change, let them. It will make all the difference.