I’m part of a generation that has been largely led to believe that people (and the world) should accept us exactly as we are. With the best of intentions, people mutter the phrase, “If they truly love you, you won’t have to change for them.” But I have to respectfully call this what it is: a lie.
Show me someone who lives by the “I shouldn’t have to change for anyone” creed, and I’ll show you their long string of failed relationships. Yes we can change who we are; and we better be ready to do just that if we want to succeed not only in our relationships with other people, but in our relationships with God. Because while God accepts who we are when we invite Him back into our lives, the first thing He asks us to do is repent. That word literally translates to “change.” But it’s change for the better. God loves us too much to let us sit in our own filth so that we never grow to become more mature lovers. And the people you’re closest to shouldn’t allow it either.
Let’s take a moment to expose what we use most to define “who” we are: abilities, habits, styles, behaviors, world views… these are all almost entirely learned. We are products of our upbringing as well as our past and current relationships. Outside the basic skeleton of temperament (introverted vs. extroverted personalities) and how we learn (logical vs. abstract thinkers), we accumulate everything by what we observe. How we act, our values, and even our own views of ourselves can be attributed to other people. To take it a step further, you might be surprised to hear that many doctors believe most inherited health risks can be trumped by a healthy lifestyle.
Just about all of who we think we are is fair game for change. That includes the jealousy, self-consciousness, and those other weaknesses that tend to paralyze our relationships. Claiming that those weaknesses are just part of who we are is a cop-out. When we hear Satan tell us that we’re not loved, we have the choice to believe that thought or to reject it as a bold-faced lie. When Satan puts jealousy in our minds about a hypothetical or imaginary situation, we can choose to believe it’s actually happening, or decide to trust that we are in a faithful relationship. We’re not inside our baggage; we’re carrying it. We’ve picked it up in our past but they do not describe who we have to be. With our focus on Christ and with the right people in our lives, we can set that baggage back down and walk away.
From the opposite perspective (when we are the ones trying to inspire change in others), there’s obviously a way to go about it, and many ways not to go about it. I’ll admit that I sometimes struggle to show the compassion that’s needed to not make someone feel like they are complete screw-ups. I think we can all agree it’s much easier to call out the faults of others than to even consider our own. Especially in romantic relationships, there usually has to be more of a “meet in the middle” strategy for healthy change to occur. Then, the change we know we need/want to make becomes a daily decision. Every day, we have the power to take a baby step closer to who we have always wanted to be.
This was a hard realization to accept, but not everyone feels loved by how I most easily show love. That’s why it’s important to know your own and others’ love languages. Having success in my most important relationships requires a willingness to learn how I can best love those people. And it doesn’t matter if the love language they are fluent in comes naturally to me or not. Just because I stumble over my words or start out with a really awkward accent doesn’t mean I can’t learn the language. In fact, that awkward accent might make it even more special to them. And more times than not, it won’t be long before I hear my own native language spoken back to me in their awkward but lovingly intentional accent (that’s the “meet in the middle” strategy).
I’m going to take an illustration out of Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Guys, we all want to be the knight in shining armor for a beautiful maiden trapped in a tower somewhere. Well, what we think is super knightly may not impress her at all. Does that mean she can’t still be our maiden? Not necessarily. It’s up to us to learn how she’s always wanted her knight to treat her, and then to be that guy. The same goes for you ladies: learn how your man has always wanted to be treated by his woman, and then decide to be that woman.
You can become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Let go of the people who have taught you how to be jealous and insecure. Listen to who God and the others who love you the most are calling you to be. Believe them when they say they love you and that they won’t hurt you. Because your jealousy isn’t preventing them from doing anything behind your back; nor is your insecurity. Trust them and recognize that it’s your thoughts and decisions that determine who you are. And those are things you can change.