Marsha made a commitment that this year would be different. This would be the year when she would get serious about her career, stop smoking, and find the right guy. To solidify her decision, she told her friends and family that she had changed and this year she was going to prove it to everyone.
Mark left rehab for the 3rd time with a new commitment to being sober. This was like his other two commitments but this time, things would be different. He was determined to prove to everyone that his change was real and lasting.
Both Marsha’s and Mark’s family had heard all of this before. And while they wanted to believe that the change was real, past behavior can be indicative of future behavior. It can be difficult to assess between temporary changes in a person’s character from more permanent transformations. Early on, both look very similar with immediate adjustments, periodic relapses, and hopeful promises.
But after a year, time becomes the best indicator of continued change. When a relationship hinges on sustained modification of behavior, it is extremely important to know the difference quickly. So how can a person discern between the two? Here are twenty ways:
- Responsibility vs. Blame. A person who willingly takes full responsibility for their actions is very different from a person seeking to share the blame with others. Responsibility does not cast blame; it wholly owns it.
- Peace vs. Rage. Is the person seeking ways to find peace in relationships or are they actively pursuing opportunities to rage? Attitude is everything and a person who seeks peacefulness rather than unleashing has changed.
- Forgiveness vs. Resentment. An attitude of forgiveness is ideal for restoring relationships compared with harboring resentment for past events. Resentment is easy to spot, it looks like a chip on someone’s shoulder.
- Encouragement vs. Insults. Words of encouragement inspire others and heal wounds while insults degrade and destroy. The words a person chooses to use reveals the condition of their heart.
- Self-control vs. Other-control. It takes determination, discipline and time to regain self-control. By contrast, a person blames others for their continued misbehavior thereby gives others control.
- Other-counsel vs. Self-counsel. A person actively engaged in healing seeks counsel from professionals, family, and friends. They are willing to listen to hard things from others rather than listening to their own advice.
- Action vs. Idleness. Change requires many small and large action steps to secure new habits regardless of how a motivated a person feels. Standing still and waiting for motivation to move drags out the process of change.
- Inward Contentment vs. Outward Acceptance. When the change is real, a person is fully satisfied in their heart. They do not need to constantly seek the approval of others for validation.
- Purpose vs. Apathy. True transformation arouses new purpose in life. It adds another dimension which infects nearly every situation. Compare this with apathetic behavior which quickly destroys any new resolve.
- Empathy vs. Cold-heartedness. Even those who struggle with empathy demonstrate an understanding and compassion for how their behavior impacted others. But a person, whose heart is cold, sees things from only their vantage point.
- Patience vs. Immediate. It takes time for others to see and grow comfortable with the conversion. A patient person allows things to happen on the other person’s timetable. They are not demanding immediate acceptance without substantial evidence.
- Kindness vs. Meanness. How does the person interact with others? Is there an attitude of kindness and gentleness or is there meanness and harshness?
- Intentionality vs. Accidental. Part of modifying behavior is being intentional about discovering triggers and actively avoiding them. A person not committed to the process minimizes this step and then accidentally falls into old habits.
- Wisdom vs. Reckless. Is there a desire to seek out wisdom, continue to grow, and become astute? Or are uncontrolled thoughts and feelings manifesting in reckless or destructive behavior?
- Discretion vs. Negligence. A person with discretion carefully considers how their past journey damaged the lives around them and discretely discloses only when appropriate. Negligence confession considers only self and not others who may have been harmed.
- Understanding vs. Opinionated. A rehabilitated person seeks opportunities to understand others from their perspective. They are not consumed with offering their own opinion without being asked.
- Reconciliation vs. Argumentative. When new issues arise, does the person actively work towards reconciliation or are they argumentative? Remember a person who has changed actively seeks peace.
- Poise vs. Volatility. Anger is not an evil emotion; it is quite useful in some circumstances. Is the person able to maintain poise during these moments of frustration or does the situation quickly become volatile?
- Acceptance vs. Judgement. Altered thinking is accepting of differences in others without judging them harshly for their beliefs. Judgmental attitudes demonstrate a person stuck in fixed beliefs.
- Courage vs. Cowardice. It takes courage to admit that past behavior was wrong, work to modify it, and then still accept the consequences. Cowardly behavior is fear based and just wants the process to be over quickly without any ramifications.
Marsha’s and Mark’s family watched for these signs over the next few months. It didn’t take long before Marsha was blaming others, argumentative, reckless, and insulting. Meanwhile, Mark stayed the course this time and his change was real.