Wednesday, February 19, 2014

People Change: This is a Fact

The politician decides to run for office. He hasn't given any speeches recently and yet, ten years ago, something he said was caught on camera and posted to some social media site. Something said, off-the-cuff, and yet, his opponent's dirt diggers will make him pay dearly for it. The politician had forgotten about it and would be embarrassed about the statement, had he found it first. 

A gentleman marries a woman. She hates kids. He has a career that he deeply loves. They have children. She makes him take care of their every need and forces him to leave his career for one that makes more money. He's smart and capable and does well in his new career. Their marriage changes. They fall deeply in love. She learns to love her children. They are happy.

Yet, some of their friends from years back remember them from their days at the beginning of their marriage. The friends bring them up in casual conversation, telling stories of the woman who didn't love kids, worrying about the husband, being forced to change careers, and even mocking them behind their backs.

These stories are simply an example of how humanity assumes that people never change. If they get to know a person and then move on, the way they saw that person during those moments they spent with them is stuck in their minds in perpetuity. The human mind sees this as fair. After all, your assessment was very fair when you had contact with the individuals.

But people change. And they can change very quickly.

My wife and I have been married for nearly twelve-and-a-half years. We began marriage as a very happy couple. We fought a lot. We believed in God. We were deeply religious. We didn't believe in birth control. We believed that sex inside of government-sanctioned marriage was the only allowable sex. We thought that we could never have friends of the opposite sex, in any and all capacities, while married to each other.  We wanted to home school our children. The list goes on.

As the years went by, we began to change. From the outside looking it, our life looked like a series of irrational spontaneity. One week, we would be home schooling. Then, the next, all of our kids were enrolled in the local school and we left the church we were nominally attending, asking to be removed from the membership rolls.

One day, we would be driving a few old beater cars, then the next weekend, we would have two later model cars, gleaming in the burning sun, in our driveway.

The reality was that my wife and I would, every so often, get so tired of our complacent existence, that we would stay up for 72 hours, discussing our life and considering change - then acting on it.  What seemed rash to those on the outside was actually a very carefully constructed choreograph of life on the inside. Sure, we had to experience various things within that dance in order to continue making wise decisions, but we were willing to take that risk.

I grew up with an old friend. He was three times my age and still looks to be that way. Life has hit him hard. As a young lad, I was a very interesting character. I was funny and rash.  I was the always getting into trouble and those who knew me got used to rolling their eyes and dismissing me by saying, "That's just Joe."

This was funny at the time and I learned to enjoy it. But, as life moved on, I married and had six wonderful children. I bought a house, started a new career, loved my wife, tolerated my kids, and watched as my bride went through college to start her own career. 

I had matured.

And yet, this old gentleman would come to my house, hear a few things about my life, and say, "That's just Joe." I found it to be humiliating. Dismissive of my capabilities to make good decisions. Hell, I wanted to be recognized as an adult, but was still treated like the child I used to be and act like. I had arrived in my own life, but this gentleman refused to recognize it. Worse, he was only the tip of the iceberg.

This affected me greatly and finally, my wife had had enough. She confronted the old guy and told him that I was a different person now. He was shocked. And his shock surprised me, until I realized that humans who don't have ample interactions with other human beings, tend to see those people as who they used to be - forever. This wasn't this guy's fault.

People change. Some change very slowly. Others change quickly. Some, of course, not at all, but they grow wrinkles, so they've still changed. Before you spread the old news about them, get to know their new selves.

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