How You Can Change What You Are
WHAT has been missing from the methods of behavior establishment and change already discussed? The person’s own wishes and use of willpower! The exercise of his own free will by informed personal choice. In short, his self-control is missing!
Behavior therapists have found that they have a better chance of achieving lasting results if the individual being treated has a say in setting his own behavior goals. Vance Packard writes in his book The People Shapers: “Apparently with a little counsel, any reasonably bright person can now become a modifier of his own behavior.” This is called self-management. In other words, where a measure of self-control is applied, outstanding improvements have been noted.
Christians have an advantage when self-control is called into play, for they have learned to exercise this as one of the nine fruits of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) This means that the active force of Almighty God can be brought to bear on your behavior change and help you to succeed.
So, what do you want to do about your behavior? Do you really want to change? If so, from what? To what? And why? Can you trust your own control? Where can you find help that provides only benefits?
Let’s look at some of the methods and ingredients for changing behavior patterns.
Step 1: Find Out What You Really Are
You are the raw material for what you want to be. The new you must be built by changing the old you. So you must accurately know yourself. Can you define which aspects of your behavior you would like to change?
Since it is difficult to evaluate your own behavior, you need to consult a respected and credible standard. The Holy Bible is recommended for this. Use the Bible, and you will get a view of yourself that you may not have seen before. You may not even like what you see reflected, but you can be sure it will be an accurate image.
The Bible has been likened to a mirror, and people are urged to peer into it. “If anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (James 1:23-25) The Bible, properly understood and used, has deep, incisive analytical power that will not only show up what you are as a person but even reveal your motives and attitudes. Thus, Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word goes even further by providing guidance as to what is truly right and what is truly wrong.—Hebrews 4:12; 5:14.
The Bible can do all these things for you because it is the Word of Jehovah, the perceptive true God. According to Psalm 139, God searches through you and makes an accurate analysis of what you are. As Ps 139 verse 1 says: “O Jehovah, you have searched through me, and you know me.” God has been monitoring you since conception. He knows you through and through. He has had commentaries on human life written down in the Bible in all possible combinations. You will find yourself reflected somewhere in its pages, either positively or negatively.
Thus, you can find out what you really are—if you want to.
Step 2: Decide What You Want to Be
If you are going to change, make sure that the change will be worth it. Make sure that it is what you want and that it is better than what you have now. What improved behavior goals should you set? Where can you get the right advice on desirable behavior traits? Again, the Bible is recommended for this.
The Bible urges you to change for the better, to adopt a “new personality.” Paul counseled: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) The Bible shows you what these better traits are. Do you recall the perfect world described earlier? If you want to be part of that world, you will have to see the necessity of developing the qualities described at Colossians 3:12-17, qualities such as compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, and gratitude.
So after consulting your Bible, set your goals. Make note of them. Give each goal a priority. Work at it!
Step 3: Seek Worthy Examples
Much of your behavior was established by your modeling yourself after others—friends, associates, parents, schoolteachers.
Why not, then, after deciding on your desired behavior goals, look for someone who behaves in a way you wish to copy? Then seek that person’s help. A Bible proverb wisely points out: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise.”—Proverbs 13:20.
The Bible contains the account of the life of the best example for all of us, Jesus Christ himself. Read of how he behaved under all circumstances, his moral conduct, his perception and wisdom, his dignity, his thoughtfulness and extraordinary kindness and concern for his fellowman. How refreshing he sounds when he says: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light”!—Matthew 11:28-30.
Millions in all countries have already turned to Christ Jesus as their example and do their best to follow in his footsteps, just as he, in turn, walked in the way instructed by his heavenly Father, Jehovah God. These millions, having had their fill of the bad behavior of the world in general today, have turned to the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses for help and direction and have not been disappointed. At their Kingdom Halls, excellent Christlike examples are plentiful, and much help has been provided for those wanting to change their personal behavior to something better. Of course, the Witnesses have the frailties common to imperfect humankind; but they also have a positive spiritual force actuating the mind.—Ephesians 4:23.
Step 4: Get the Strength You Need to Succeed
It will be comforting to those who wish to change their ways to know that help is available. “The new personality” is described as being “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:24) This guarantees that superhuman assistance is available from God himself for those desiring it. How can you get Jehovah God’s help?
One of the foremost helps is personal prayer. Prayer provides a vital consultation service with the Source of the power necessary to change your ways. Prayer allows you to speak freely and openly at any time, even in mid crisis. Such access to a real and caring God far surpasses access to any human help and is immediately effective. Thus, the apostle John could write: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) And the prophet Isaiah’s words encourage us: “Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near. Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way.”—Isaiah 55:6, 7.
Bible study also furnishes strength, providing you with refreshment, enabling you daily to refocus on your goals. The Bible supplies positive reinforcement as you strive toward your chosen behavior target. Further, it stimulates a sense of revulsion for your former ways. Daily taking in knowledge of the Bible and its contents will serve also to crowd out any misinformation that may filter in from the world’s media and from its educational systems.
Christian meetings at the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses not only provide education on Bible standards but also make available group support and mutual incitement to improved behavior. This support provided through the congregation has assisted many to make a successful behavior change. Why not discuss such help with the person from whom you received this magazine?
Step 5: Cope With Relapses
Many have tried to improve their ways but have become discouraged by relapses that may be inevitable. The result has been that some give up entirely. Such ones often think that if what they had considered as their only hope has now failed, there is no hope at all. They may then give themselves over to the influences of the world. Often they become worse off than before they tried to change.
Keep reassuring yourself that any former undesirable course is worth escaping from. The apostle Paul referred to his former behavior and life-style as a heap of refuse, or rubbish. (Philippians 3:8) So if you, in making the change, are stumbled by an obstacle or a relapse, get up again, and keep going forward. Continue! Fight on! It will be worth it!
Remember, many of your ways and traits were imposed on you by external forces beyond your choice or control at that time. These forces still operate. Will you let them squeeze you into their mold? No? Then don’t ever give up!
Millions of people from diverse cultures—even criminals and people deeply involved in immoral conduct—have successfully changed their behavior. They have maintained their improved standards to this day, many for decades, sticking to their better ways with admirable voluntary integrity. But they thank God for the strength and motivation to do it. As the apostle Paul said: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:13.
[Picture on page 7]
Step 1: Find out what you really are
[Picture on page 8]
Step 2: Decide what you want to be
[Picture on page 8]
Step 3: Seek worthy examples
[Picture on page 9]
Step 4: Get the strength you need to succeed
[Picture on page 9]
Step 5: Cope with relapses
[Picture on page 10]
Those who change can also inherit a changed earth