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  • Helen

All Change

235 blogs ago (yes really!), it was our goal that should be a place for rounded conversation. Last week our readers excelled themselves! We were delighted to read (mostly on Facebook) the variety of perspectives and exchanges on Prince Harry and the monarchy. People exchanged views, ideas and resources in a helpful way.

Lots of our blogs are attempts to reflect on the question which has probably been more important to us than any other – ‘How should we live?’ But honestly, we ourselves often have more questions than answers.

The question, 'How should we live?' is based on a couple of assumptions - that we have choices and that we can change.

So this week, we’d like to explore those assumptions. And we’re hoping that some of our readers will once again give their views – this time on individual human change and who’s doing it. The world has changed hugely in our lifetime – even in the last five years. Are we changing too? Is human change a reality or a mirage? Is anyone offering helpful models for human change? Models that work?

My own education in the need for change began early. Christian parents, teachers and preachers talked to us about following Jesus, going to heaven and ‘being saved’ – some of them even pressed hard on that much-misunderstood command of Jesus to ‘be perfect’.

For me much of that talk became extremely discouraging. I knew that I was certainly a very long way from perfect! But gradually, it dawned on me that many of the people who were preaching perfection were caught in a strange bind: they gave no evidence that they ever looked in the mirror at their own individual progress! There was a lot of talk about ‘conquering selfishness’ but less honesty about genuine human frailty. And all the time, the need of people in the wider world was for compassion and understanding. Over time, I found it most helpful not to try and change but simply to settle with four words - the Quaker version of the Great Commandment: ‘Do what love demands’. It is, of course, far less simple than it sounds.

As I studied psychology – another model of change was presented to me – the model of finding and being ‘oneself’. That was certainly an expressed goal for many of the people I worked with in the counselling room. I believe in being as authentic and as genuine as possible. But the model of finding and being one’s ‘true self’ takes some work. A superficial reading of Jung concerning the light and dark sides of us all makes authenticity a far more complex business than just ‘doing what comes naturally’. Having/being/doing what you want when you want without regard for anyone else is the source of large numbers of contemporary problems!

Now in my 8th decade, these models have formed a kind of smorgasbord in my head. But I wonder whether I have changed at all! And if I have, how much of the pressure to change came from other people’s agendas. And then, whether any changes in me have come from my own efforts or would have happened anyway in the process of natural maturing.

Do people change – really? Whom have you seen change? In what way? At what level do people change – in behaviour or attitudes, appetites, goals – or thinking patterns? Have you always/ever wanted to change? How? and why? Have you succeeded? Who is a different person from the one they were in the last decade – or the one before?

I’m imagining responses will show that it’s so much easier to talk about Prince Harry than about ourselves – but do try!

Illustration from Knaphill Baptist Churcb

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