House is one of my favorite shows. It’s difficult to explain why I love the grumpy, irreverent, pill-popping doctor who drives everyone crazy by breaking all the rules and ignoring political correctness in order to save his patients. It’s a quirky show and sometimes I’m just in the mood for “quirky”, especially well-written quirkiness. Anyway, two of House’s most infamous sayings are “everybody lies”, and “people don’t change”. I won’t argue with the first one, but I’m hoping he’s wrong about the second. I’m hoping people can change, because I want to change, and I think I have changed over the years.
Perhaps House doesn’t believe that the basic nature of a person can change. Or maybe he believes that people don’t change anymore once they reach a certain age. I haven’t heard him get very specific about his theory. But I’m hoping he’ll admit one day that he’s wrong. Because without the possibility of change, we don’t have much hope.
Christianity is based on the premise, the promise of change. Christ says that you have the ability to change your life and your lifestyle if you will trust him. I’ve seen the evidence of changed lives. I’ve known people who have left behind lives of self-destruction and walked down a new, more productive path. I don’t know if those people were in torment each day- struggling between their old and new nature- or if they finally just accepted and adapted to the new without giving any more thought to the old. I never thought to ask them. I just tried to love and accept them for who they were with me.
Most of us think of change that way- big, bold steps. We love to hear the stories of people who have given up drugs, or alcohol. We love to see “before” pictures of people who have lost 100 pounds. Some of you (not me!) like to see those plastic surgery shows. But let’s face it. The little changes are often the most lasting and can be just as surprising over time. That’s the way most of us really change. We change one tiny step at a time until in ten years we are completely different. And by then we are so settled into the changed behavior that we don’t give it any thought until a photo or a memory or a person calls it to our attention.
I thought about this because I have been looking at those crazy slides from the seventies again. Many of the things about my appearance and my lifestyle have changed in small increments. I didn’t get up one morning and decide that I would never wear makeup again. I just started wearing less and less and less, until over a period of about five years I just stopped completely. That’s the way many lasting changes are made. And I think that idea should give people hope. Certainly there are some things that can and should be stopped “cold turkey” as we call it. But there are other things that we can change in tiny, tiny steps and still be confident that the end result will be pleasing. I think the media gives us the impression that if we don’t lose twenty pounds this month or go to the gym four times a week or stop smoking tomorrow, something is wrong with us. I enjoy watching “Biggest Loser”, but I don’t want to be in pain twenty-four hours a day in order to lose weight. I don’t smoke, but I know people who do, and some of them are so anxious about the very idea of abruptly quitting that they won’t even consider it. How about if we all just give up 100 calories or walk one extra block or smoke one less cigarette tomorrow, and then do it again the next day? We can handle that. People can change, but maybe they don’t do it very often because they are just too overwhelmed by the idea of making a BIG change.
Before I quit rambling for today I want to remind some of you of one of the biggest changes I made in my life, because I hope it might be an inspiration for some of you. And before you start saying, “Wait a minute, weren’t we talking about making small changes?” I will say to you that this BIG change was tackled in small manageable steps over several years. I did it and you can too: I went back to college. I got my degree when I was 48 and it has changed my life in dozens of ways. If you want to have a better career or you’ve just always had the desire to finish school or learn something new, do it. Do not let your age be a factor. Do not try and figure out what you will do when you finish. If you want to go to college and you can figure out how to do it financially, then just do it. I hope that someday I will be writing about getting my doctorate. I may be seventy when it happens, but if I’ll be seventy anyway, then why not???
I still love House, but I disagree with him. People do change. They change every day.