YOU CAN'T CHANGE PEOPLE
"But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control…” Galatians 5:22,23
You are not God. There’s only One God and you’re not Him. Neither are we for that matter. So, if you agree with us, we hope you’ll also agree there's a perceived right/responsibility that we then need to relinquish back to Him…
God has never given any of us the right/responsibility to change someone. As a matter of fact, you can’t change people. You can try, but we promise you, you'll become very frustrated. We’re pretty confident that if you’re trying to change someone at this moment, you’re probably failing miserably at it.
The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. It’s not spouse-control. It’s not child-control. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t other-control of any form. God has gifted you only with the ability to practice self-control.
Most of us don’t want to admit it, but we’re control freaks. We like what we like. We want what we want, when we want it, no questions asked. We have an idea of how everything and everyone in our concentric-circles should be and behave. We like things and people to be the way we like things and people to be. We will often seek to control most anyone who appears, in our estimation, to be out of control (how we like them to be).
One thing we have learned though is you can’t control or change people. People change when they are ready to change. When a person becomes sick and tired of being sick and tired, they are then most ready for change. Until that time, there is little to nothing you can do for them but pray and entrust them to God.
Think about how God brought about change in your own life. What was happening? What were the circumstances in your life?
If you’re like most people, the pain of staying the same became greater than the pain of changing. What was true for you is true of most everyone. People change when they grow tired of the pain. They change when they “bottom out.” You most likely “bottomed out” and were primed and ready for change. That’s where God stepped in.
When it comes to people changing, there often tends to be two problems: 1) We want change for the person more than they want change for themselves, and 2) We hate to see those we love hurting. We want what’s best for them. We often know what’s best for them. Therefore, we want to provide what’s best for them. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s God’s role, not ours.
The best thing we can do for those we love who need to change is to get out of the way and let God do His work. That can be a scary proposition for most of us control freaks. But, if we can assert that 1) God’s love wants what’s best for this person, 2) His wisdom knows what’s best for this person, and 3) His power can accomplish what’s best for this person, it makes it much easier to step aside and let Him be God.
We’ve noticed in ourselves and others, that if we profess the above 3 statements to be true, but struggle to actually live as though they are true, we’ll continue to be control freaks. Neil Anderson puts it this way, “People may not always live what they profess, but they will always live what they believe.” If we profess that God is in control but struggle in our belief that He actually is in control, then we will continue to grasp for control ourselves.
At times people fail to change because we stand in the way of God’s work in their lives. Our voice can become so loud in their head and heart that it drowns out the voice of God in their life. This was the case between us. In the early years of our marriage, I (Scott) tried tirelessly to get Dawn to be more like me - spiritually, sexually, financially, in temperament, discipline, you name it. And guess what, I failed miserably. Why? Because I was attempting to do a work in Dawn that was not my role to do. My role was to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in changing me - that’s called self-control.
If there’s someone in your life who you’re trying to change, stop it. That’s not your job. You may actually be debilitating the work God is trying to do in and through that person. Let God be God. Let Him do a work in and through you, by His Spirit, as you practice self-control. Entrust the other person to the sovereign work of God.
- If you are a believer in Christ, how did God change your life?
- Are you presently trying to change someone? If so, how is it working?
- Are you, in any way, standing in the way of God’s work in someone’s life? If so, what do you need to do?