Can People Really Change?
By Mike Masso
Part I

Is it possible for a person to really change? If so, why does it seem so difficult? What needs to happen for real change to take place? We’ve all asked these questions one time or another about ourselves and others. What do we mean by “change” and what are we are actually trying to change? It can vary from trying to improve our social and leadership skills, physical appearance, spending habits, shift our paradigm on life, or even try to incorporate changes to our personalities (which is not that easy)… but if you think about it, how many people do you know have really changed? Most can’t think of very many people that would qualify. It seems that the most common change in others that we notice is usually a change for the worse. They end up in life where they never intended to be (e.g. Overweight, bound by debt, broken marriages, over-worked, over-stressed, bitter, etc.). Although, there sure have been a lot of self-improvement books written over the years, so what’s the problem?
Here are a few thoughts I’d like to share from many years of dealing with myself and others in relationships ranging from family, ministry, business and friendships. I can tell you it takes more than just noble ideas and good intentions. As Andy Stanley puts it in his book The Principle of the Path, “Direction, not intention, determines your destination”. So, without going into an overwhelming and detailed life-manual for experiencing positive change (which might be pretty comical if I actually had one), I will summarize what I have found to be some key elements for change and growth in relation to your life mission—your God-given destiny.
A good place to begin is knowing where you really are. Its sounds over-simplified, but being self-aware is the starting point from where you are– to where you want to be. Without knowing this you are doomed to wandering aimlessly, wasting a lot of precious time, and feeling like you are spinning your wheels without any real accomplishment. It is kind of like trying to find your way around the Mall of America without locating the big red dot on the mall directory map that says “You Are Here”. So what does “You are Here” look like in relation to a person’s life? In short, it comes from an understanding of your passions (what drives and energizes you), your talents (born with and developed), and your significant experiences that have contributed to your view of yourself, God and the world around you.

The ground on which these resources (passions, talents and experiences) are built upon is your character. Your character is the foundation which determines what you can actually build your life upon. Many well-intentioned people are doomed to fail in achieving the changes they desire, because they begin their journey of change from an external reference point. In other words, just knowing you have a vision in mind, the plan to build something and the resources to throw at your dream, will fall short if the foundation upon which it is built is faulty. A recent example of this is a luxury high-rise condominium resort that was built on South Padre Island, TX not too long ago without the proper foundational support. According to a San Antonio media report, “Construction was more than two years under way when it began to sink and bend. Pier supports in the shifty clay more than 100 feet underground began buckling, stressing beams and columns.” ( The elegant modern design, skilled workers, and finances which were available for this development were not enough to overcome the inadequate foundation which ultimately was demolished into a 55,000 ton mess-pile of concrete and steel instead of the beautiful structure it was intended to be.
How do we establish a sure foundation, or starting point, knowing that we don’t have it all together, with character flaws and bad habits that need to change? When we need to find our way somewhere, we have to make sure you have the right map, in the same way that adequate structural engineering plans are needed to establish a solid foundation. Therefore, if being self-aware is our starting point, then being God-aware is our reference point. The best reference point available for our lives is non-other than God’s Word—the Bible. It will give us a true reference of how far off course we may be. This is where our faith in God’s truth brings His grace to our flawed character. God’s Word reminds us (because He knows we tend to forget) that His Grace is Sufficient. His grace is not available as permission to stay off course, but it is there to allow access to His Spirit to renew us—change us! His grace allows us to re-interpret our identity in order to align us with His destiny. It’s not our talents, experiences (good and bad), our accomplishments or failures that define us. It is our interpretation of those things that will determine who we become and where we end up in our life journey.
Hopefully, without sounding like I’m throwing around hyper-religious clichés, it is God’s Truth that sets us free. Free from what? –from the effects of the thief who is determined to steal our God-given dream of the abundant life we are destined for. The alternative to God’s Truth is accepting our own limited interpretation of ourselves, which is usually distorted by accepting the faulty reference points of those around us, while we allow Satan to corrupt the pure simple truth about how God sees us.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10)
For us to be God-aware means we validate our perspective, passions, talents and experiences from God’s viewpoint. That is to understand that our talents, passions and experiences come from God who works all things (especially the “failures”, hurts and negative experiences!) for good to those who love Him and are called to His purposes.

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