Do you ever wish you could change your personality? Maybe you would like to be more outgoing, agreeable, or flexible in the way you handle life. Perhaps you see your shortcomings and think, “I’d like to make some changes and be a different and improved person. I’ve got my stack of self-help books! I’m ready!”
But can personality really be changed? Can those patterns of behavior that tend to define us, be changed?
We know that biology influences our behavior, but also doesn’t necessarily determine behavior. Patterns of behavior can be changed given persistence and practice. It is possible to become more disciplined, more agreeable, and more conscientious over time. For example, you might be born with a short temper, but can learn to calm down and display more patience with time and practice.
In fact, the more we invest and commit to something, the more we can adapt and change. When we set goals and then develop intentional strategies to reach those goals, growth can occur. But this takes time and a great deal of intention. One reason change doesn’t happen immediately is because people easily give up or don’t want to do the hard work of change. They aren’t willing to commit to concrete steps that lead to reaching those goals of change.
Think about it. It takes years to develop certain personality patterns, meaning it will take years to make changes in those patterns. In our instant success culture, this is a hard pill for most people to swallow. We want results now, thus the popularity of self-help books that promise change overnight.
Here’s a typical scenario of attempting change. Let’s say I want to be more attentive to my spouse. So, I start out with a bit of initial success, but over time, I slip back into my old pattern of inattentiveness. Then I say to myself, “I just didn’t work hard enough so I need to try again.” But I only make a few adjustments to my plan to be different. Then when change doesn’t come quickly, and I don’t achieve immediate success, I tell myself, “I can’t do this. This is who I am. Change isn’t happening.” I give up. This feeling of disappointment leads me to stay the same.
Rather than this defeatist cycle, work at the change and be more realistic in terms of what it take to change an old pattern of behavior. When you slip back to an old behavior or way of doing something (and you will), don’t give up. Instead think, “OK, it took me years to behave one way, now get back on the change wagon and keep moving forward.”
Add to this the promise of change given our relationship with God. With God, we know transformation is possible- new life with Christ. But even people of faith become easily discouraged and “grow weary in doing good.”
God promises to change us if we surrender to the process of change and intentionally do the things that lead to becoming more like Christ. But we can’t always expect results over night. And we need to understand that our weaknesses (self-awareness) are made perfect in His strength.
So can you change your personality? Yes, with Christ, all things are possible. Change is the hallmark of the Christian faith. But change often takes time, intentionality and perseverance. And too many people simply give up.Can you change your personality?