We have all been in situations where we wish someone would be different or make better choices:
- An irresponsible person who does not do what should be done
- An employee who is not performing up to standards
- A person who is not investing in a relationship
- An adult child you wish would grow up and make better choices
- A coworker who is not matching your effort
We want people to change and wish we could change them. So, we try. At first, it’s subtle, an encouraging word here, a mild criticism there. When that doesn’t seem to do the job, we step up our tactics with nagging, manipulation or passive aggressive schemes. And guess what? Nothing changes.
We Try to Change Them
We see what needs to happen. We know it would be in their best interest. So, we try to change them, motivate them to do things the way we think they should be. There is only one problem; they have a will of their own. We get frustrated because we can’t control them.
It’s impossible to get someone to change who does not what the change for themselves. We may be able to manipulate someone into some temporary behavior modification, but for change to take place, the other person must want the change.
God endowed us with free will, the ability to choose for ourselves. God made us that way so we could freely love and serve God. The downside of that wonderful gift is that we can also use it to turn away from God – and we do so often. That gift of free will is not only exercised in our relationship with God but every relationship. That is why it is impossible to change another person.
As much as we want another person to change, as much as that change would be good for them and us, we cannot make it happen. We must respect their, God-given ability to choose for themselves.
Once we have accepted that part of their make-up we can help them decide for themselves. We can influence, but not control. We can influence them through incentives, exposing them to opportunities, and setting consequences in place. John Maxwell once famously said, “People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, or receive enough that they are able to.”
We cannot make an employee or co-worker do their jobs with greater effort or passion. But, we can outline our expectations and put consequences in place that will clearly show that they have or have not met those expectations. Then allow them to choose their path.
That is what Jesus did in the Scripture cited above. Jesus told the man what would be required for him to inherit eternal life and left the decision to him. Jesus looked at him, loved him and placed the matter in his hands.
When we love someone enough the give them a choice and the consequences of that choice, we respect them and honor their God-given free will. And, by the way, save ourselves a lot of grief.
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Alan Cassady serves as Senior Pastor at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2011. When he's not preaching and teaching, he enjoys sci-fi movies and FSU Football. Read more about Alan here.