“People change,” your friend might explain. And you might be thinking, “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”
Which view do you agree with?
This reminds me of a point in Steven Covey’s The Eighth Habit. He quotes Viktor E. Frankl:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
The space is the attention we give to our choice when responding to the world around us. Say a child, in disadvantaged circumstances, witnesses violence and impulsive actions from others. Frankl says he still has a choice when reacting to the rough patches in his own life.
When someone bumps into him, does he say “excuse me,” or deliver a punch? His environment doesn’t necessarily dictate this. As this child grows, he may respond to the same incident very differently much later in life. What at first seemed like a reason to fight may become completely trivial later on.
People DO change, and often do. We look at things differently, given our life experience, insights from friends and loved ones, and from therapy and medication. There are many forces at work that can reshape the space between stimulus and response.
So, what makes us change our reactions for the better?
Speaking from personal experience, I admit, I’ve made many, many mistakes in life. I have, regrettably, hurt other people’s feelings. As I enter into a space at midlife, I’m looking to act more ethically, responsibly and honestly, and try to be more sensitive in situations where I was not as thoughtful before.
As human beings, all we can do is try again. Perfection is a pursuit, not a permanent state. After all, people do change.
A longer version of this article was recently published in The Epoch Times.