Don’t try to change me!

Every person who loves themselves (that's everyone) wants to change, for no one is completely satisfied with who they are. In fact, how we wish to change offers clues into our inmost desires. This must be taken with a grain of salt for everyone wants to be, say, smarter, better looking, stronger; but when we desire these things for ourselves we are really just acknowledging their inherent goodness. We all want to be "better" than we are and so we naturally desire good things. It is only the desires that we pursue that offer insight into our souls. Sure, I would like to be better looking, but that doesn't mean I will stop wearing flannels, use Rogain, or get a nose job. Yes, I can appreciate the utility of good looks, but frankly, who cares? We would all like to be more generous, more disciplined, more green (perhaps), but it is only when we fight to become what we are not that we see who we really are.

In light of this, why do we insist that our friends, our families, our wives accept us "as we are"? Such a curse I would never wish upon myself or any other man, the curse of a life lived in the dark and unscalable depths of stagnation and atrophy. This is a life without hope, for hope is nothing more than the assurance that things will improve. And yet we demand with viscous ferocity, "treat me this way, as a man without hope! Don't try to change me!"

Don't get me wrong, I know that's not what we mean when we say, "Don't try to change me!" We are looking for acceptance and delight in our unique qualities. When someone points out a flaw we hear them whisper through their words, "you're not good enough... you would be better if you were more like somebody else." In the face of such audacious subtlety we reject their critique. We put up a guard that shouts from his tower, "I'm fine just the way I am. I don't need to change for you or anybody." This guard becomes so loud he drowns out the voices of our former dreams, the voices that longed for and believed that we could change. In our own defense we kill hope.

While acceptance is a critical element to love, it does not represent its totality. We love ourselves, and yet we do not just accept who we are but often long to change. Why shouldn't those who love us long for the same thing? Perhaps we don't believe that someone could love us the way they love themselves. How can we tell when a suggested improvement is for our own benefit or theirs? Must we perceive sinister and selfish motives lurking behind all words that push for change?

Some change is natural and obvious: a boy becoming a man, a student entering the work force, a padawan becoming the master. This kind of change should be both pursued of ourselves and encouraged of others in its proper time. Some changes may be more like the seasons or as ice turning to water to steam. As we mature we must own up to the responsibilities of each season, of each stage of life, whether it be learning to use money and credit wisely or fulfilling the responsibilities of marriage. While these changes may be more profound they are both necessary and good.

The change that should rejected is more fundamental to our person: when a dog tries to be a cat or a nerd rejects his nerdyness in an attempt at jockishness. This is against the core of personal being and should not be pursued. This does not mean all radical change is unnatural, for ugly ducklings become swans and  caterpillars, butterflies. But for a spider plant to pursue the life of the rose is to reject all that makes a spider plant beautiful and good. We cannot ask this change of ourselves and we cannot accept this demand from others. Still, in something as complicated as life it takes wisdom to know the difference between the necessary metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly and when a nerd is just trying to be a jock.

A healthy person accepts who they are while always demanding change for self-improvement, both for the sake of themselves and others. A healthy relationship should also be characterized by these parallel tracks of acceptance and hope for improvement. True intimacy assumes both a knowledge of another persons sincere desires, and a willingness to help those (good) desires come to pass. For the one who wishes to improve himself, a true friend will come alongside and encourage that improvement. At times loyalty will demand that the friend continue to help this one in their pursuit of change, even when it goes against their immediate wishes. It is here that the temptation to retaliate with, "Don't try to change me!" will be the most profound. But if the relationship is to be characterized by trust and mutual love this temptation must be resisted. Such great loyalty will indulge in hope on your behalf even when you have given up on yourself. Let it never be cast aside! Here you have found one that loves you even when you do not have the strength to love yourself. Here is a hope that can conquer fear, if only your pride will allow it. In place of an accusing finger shouting "Don't", instead offer outstretched and open arms speaking softly, "Help me, my friend."

Lord, in your mercy, help me.

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  • Fantastic post! Summed up a conversation I had with some very good friends! The word that comes to my mind is poignant and then wow! Thank you for the insight.