Change… For the Better…

Change is hard.

Conversion is extremely hard because it requires a genuine change of self.

While it is easy to expect change, we oftentimes tend to only expect other people to change instead of our very own selves. We tend to go get frustrated when we do not see the change we expected or desired on the other side. It oftentimes leads toward resentment, too, because we resent resistance or what we deem as a lack of cooperation or willingness to be better. However, we are often the cause of our own frustration, anger, and resentment because we tend to turn outward, egocentrically judge others, and impose our values, demands, expectations, and desires on others without really looking at our very own selves and our need to truly change our ways for the better, too.

As a priest who has done a lot of marriage counseling sessions with couples who were ready to walk away, who stormed through the door and demanded that the other side change right away, or who simply gave up because they think that there is nothing more that can come from the relationship. Over and over again, I have seen people who come into the office giving all the excuses of why they are frustrated, why things do not work, or how the other side “doesn’t get it” in order to make the relationship work as they would have liked. Over and over again, I have seen people criticizing the other side as if none of the failures in the relationship is their fault, that they are perfect or good enough, and that the other side is the other one who is ignorant.

Perhaps we think this is a bit too extreme, but we tend to do the same thing toward others that we do not like, too. We tend to get frustrated, resentful, and angry at people who we deemed as different or who do not share the same values as us. We ignore them. We talk bad about them. We tend to gossip, make up lies, or fill ourselves with assumptions about them. We talk as if we know all about them because we have made judgments, observations, and self-centered knowledge of them. What is oftentimes worst is that we tend to stop to have basic respect, decency, compassion, and care for the people we disliked or labeled as different than us. We have lost that sense of civility and discourse as a society! We would rather condemn and isolate than act and treat one another with respect and dignity. What is oftentimes worst, too, is that we tend to stop praying for the people we disliked or prayed against them, demanding, expecting, and wanting God to condemn and punish those who we deemed as unworthy.

What tends to happen is that we tend to play gods in controlling God Himself, expecting that He, too, condemns and punishes the people we disliked or do not like us. Not only do we not able to have basic decency and respect for those who are different than us, but we also tend to expect and demand punitive and miserable outcomes for them. Hence, it is often us who caused ourselves to be in a perpetual cycle of self-centered hellish existence that is filled with self-pities, frustrations, anger, and resentment because we cannot get beyond our little selves and their pitiful hurts.

Everyone tends to have an opinion on everything. Nevertheless, not everyone’s opinions are right and should be taken as rules of law and the only things that are right. Our opinions are oftentimes subject to and differ greatly, even with our best intentions. Therefore, the only way for us to truly discern what is right and just is to align it with God‘s very own eternal, transcendental, and everlasting truths. Furthermore, if one is to be taken seriously and to reflect God‘s own heart, one needs to have the humility to care, respect, and pray for others, too. It is important that one does not demand, expect, and desire things to be his or her own ways alone, but by patience, prudence, and wisdom, able to allow the values that he or she professes and believes to be enlivened, tested, and tried. It is easy to be self-righteous and speak what seems to be right, even if one professes and quotes the Sacred Scriptures, but if one’s actions are not of humility and genuine loving care, then one remains a hypocrite who speaks but does not live what is preached.

In spiritual discernment, time and humility are of the essence and the golden standards to judge all matters. People can say a lot of things, they can promise to move mountains and hills, and some can influence others with eloquent words, but if they lack humility and are unable to be committed to what they say, then words only remain as words. It is easy to be captivated through a quick, false, or temporary fascination or idolization of a person or ideology. We have seen false prophets who speak half-truths to make people drink their words and follow them. These people can motivate and gain a following from people, but they tend to be narcissists who only draw people to themselves and make the populace depends on them. The idolization of people happens all the time! We tend to be drawn and captivated by people that speak well or somehow say the things that we like, but this false fascination is dangerous because it is cultic and self-centered.

It is easy to create a cult following and stir up short-lived revolutions. We have seen it all around us! Change, progress, and movement are being preached all the time! We have seen many come and go; and at the end of the day, those people, ideologies, and revolutions only were kept alive to prove something to somebody. Simply put, too many come and go because they only existed to serve the will of a person or group. Too many people cannot see that because they react, get attracted, and drink the appealing words that are properly formulated to trigger or hit all of the right notes. Time does reveal many things, but too many of us are impatient to take the time to truly discern and see beyond the apparent, immediate, appealing messages, ideologies, and words.

The truth needs to be measured with time, patience, prudence, and genuine humility. We need time to see the fruits born by the promised ideologies and words of a person! It is so important that we do not jump the gun and blindly follow someone right away. All that has been given to us that are conducive to eternal life are revealed to us by Sacred Scriptures, found in the teachings of the Church, and through the tested, tried, and proclaimed sanctity of the lives of the saints. If we want to really change the world, do what the saints did! Instead of following and throwing one’s self after a revolution, person, or ideology, let the Gospel set us free and our lives be of genuine, sacrificial, and humble service to others. Too many people want people to follow them and their ideas, but not many are willing to die to themselves, to live humbly out of genuine service as to live what they have preached. Therefore, let us be leery of people who attract others to themselves, be careful of those who appeal and burn brightly, and allow the proper discernment and prudential wisdom of time to reveal all things and matters.

For us, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! (cf. Matthew 6:33) If we want change, that change has to happen first to us. We need to change ourselves first and foremost with genuine humility, dying to our egocentric will in order to truly conform our lives to the will of God. It begins with choosing a life of heroic virtues, prayer, and of mindful, prayerful, and prudential discernment. If we want to invoke genuine and real transformation, we need to first be transformed by grace, always making sure that we are not serving ourselves and making our own names for other people to notice us, but to truly speak, act, and live with genuine humility and service so that our lives speak louder than our words. We set out not to change the world and other people, but to truly change our very own selves so that the Gospel sets us free, so we are no longer serving our own immediate, self-centered, and apparent needs and our enslavement to the things of this world, but to truly love and serve God and to love His will for us.

When each and every one of us is no longer worried about changing others but to live that life of grace and humble service, this world will be genuinely changed with true love. If we truly love Christ and embrace the freedom won for us on the Cross, our lives will be set free from immediate, apparent, and temporary revolutions, trends, and changes because they are grounded on matters that are transcendental, eternal, and everlasting. True change does not happen within a day or in a short period of time, it begins with each and every one of us who are willing to die for ourselves, to live for others, and to humbly serve God and to follow His will at each and every step of the way. If we are genuine, humble, and willing to serve and live without gathering attention to ourselves, we will see within us that change is possible because it is genuine since we have seen the result of that grace-filled, theocentric, and personal change by ourselves. Therefore, let us seek, desire, and live for God and seek the conversion of heart each and every moment so His loving grace can change us deep from within.