Most of us aren’t the same person we were 10, 15, or even 20 years ago. Hopefully, that’s because we have learned some lessons in life and grown and matured as a result. Life is forever offering us a lesson or two to be learned. But we have to be open to the learning process and willing to ponder our lessons conscientiously if we’re to really benefit from them. That’s what becoming a better person is all about. Sometimes, that requires making only minor changes in our basic personality. But when our personality is as deeply dysfunctional as it is ingrained, becoming a better person can be a most daunting task – often requiring efforts bordering on the heroic.
Our personalities are shaped by a number of influences. Our innate temperament, our emotional constitution, our behavioral predispositions, the painful experiences that made deep impressions on us, and the positive influences that were unfortunately all-too-absent all play roles. Moreover, these things dynamically interact with each other over the course of our early development (I discuss the multidimensional nature of personality development on pp. 24-26 in Character Disturbance). And by the time we reach the “age of reason” (somewhere around age 7), most of us have forged for ourselves a distinctive personality – our own unique way of seeing things and doing things. Unfortunately, sometimes our personalities shape up in some pretty dysfunctional ways. In our times, this happens much more frequently than it used to. Far too many folks these days experience or cause problems in their lives primarily because of the ways they tend see things and do things. It’s their attitudes, core beliefs, and general ways of coping that gets them into trouble. And once these things habit (because they’ve been so often either “enabled” or reinforced) it’s really dificult to change them.
Becoming a better person takes a lot of deliberate, sustained effort. And acquiring the right motivation to do the work involved is often a bit tricky. Sometimes, life hands us a fair degree of defeat. Unpleasant circumstances can prompt us to take a second look at our ways. But when the motivation to change is strictly external (e.g., a fed-up spouse has issued an “ultimatum,” we’ve just been fired from yet another job, we’ve gotten ourselves into legal or financial hot water, etc.) change is rarely more than superficial and hardly ever long-lasting. It’s always better when our motivation is internal – arising out of a sincere desire to serve a higher cause. This means setting our pride aside, placing our faith in something bigger than ourselves (this is the point I stress in The Judas Syndrome), and accepting the responsibility of doing whatever it takes for as long as it takes to be better and to do better. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some examples of how some folks managed to do exactly that as well as how some folks allowed ego to stand in the way of potentially positive character growth.
The blog has been undergoing some major reconstruction to address some of the security-related issues we’ve been having. We have migrated to new servers with more sophisticated caching in the hopes of resolving some of the problems commentators were having. The servers will hopefully also be more reliable, so those pesky “website not found” or other error messages won’t occur as often. As always, I appreciate commentators sending me feedback about any issues that arise. Our commentators are part of the life blood of this blog and the value of their contributions is immeasurable. So I extend both my thanks and a standing invitation for the readers to address any and all issues that might arise.
More workshop venues and dates will be posted in the coming weeks, so be sure to check out the seminars page.
THANKS SO MUCH TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE PURCHASED OR RECOMMENDED MY BOOK HOW DID WE END UP HERE? OR SUBMITTED AN ONLINE REVIEW. It’s word-of-mouth recommendations that have made bestsellers out of all my books. In the next few weeks I’ll have more information to give you about a new book on character development scheduled for release later this summer (just in time for back-to-school).
My radio program Character Matters will again be live this Sunday evening at 7 pm EDT (6 pm Central), so I can take your calls.