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Do We Allow People to Change?

The other night, I had the pleasure of watching You Again, a fun, lighthearted comedy that will appeal to anyone who ever found herself at the bottom of the social ladder in high school. Featuring such stars as Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Bell, and Betty White, it explores what happens when women are forced to come face to face with the women who made their lives horrible in high school. They are compelled (after considerable conflict) to come to terms with the fact that these women are not who they once were. They had changed and grown.

Is the person we are at seventeen, or twenty-five, or forty the person we are destined to be forever? Is it possible to change in any fundamental way? Will people who knew us at a certain moment in our lives ever be able to see us in a different light? These are all questions worth pondering.

I know that I have changed over the years. Certainly, some aspects of my personality have stayed constant, but there are things that I have said and done in my past and beliefs that I have held that now make me cringe. Life experience, education, and the influence of others have altered my way of thinking. I also realize that I am still a work in progress. How I feel and think in twenty years (presuming I am still on this earth) will no doubt be different than how I feel and think today. I hope that other people will be able to accept me as who I am at any given moment in my life, and not judge me by who I was several years earlier.

By the same token, I hope that I am able to extend the same courtesy to others. I admit that it can be difficult. It can be easier to hold onto old hurts and old impressions. It takes courage and maturity to let go, forgive, and accept people as they are today.

One of my pet peeves in life is when people are running for public office and some member of the press pulls an article they wrote or a statement that they made when they were younger stating a given position that is contrary to a position that they now hold. Such evidence is usually used to show “flip-flopping” or a lack of strong conviction. I see it as evidence that a person grew and changed and is capable of changing his or her mind.

St. Paul was arguably the person who changed the most in Scriptural history. As Saul, he was the chief persecutor of Christians. After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, he became one of Christianity’s greatest proponents. It would have been easy for Christians to regard him with suspicion. Indeed, some did. But, his life illustrates that people can change in dramatic ways. What would have happened if no one believed that such change was possible?

Lent is meant to be a time of growth and change. Hopefully, Easter will find us different people than we are today. We want others to accept and love us for the person we are becoming. Do we allow other people to change as well or do we judge them by who they once were?

(© 2011 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur)


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a Master of Arts degree in Applied Theology from Elms College. A former Senior Editor at Catholic Lane, she is now the editor of Today's Catholic Homeschooling. She is also the author of The Catholic Baby Name Book and Letters to Mary from a Young Mother. She has two biological sons and one adopted daughter. Visit her blog at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com.


  • Claire Boeck

    This is so true. When I was younger, my values were different and I made a lot of bad choices. I used to be attracted to the wrong kind of man, and consequently had a series of bad relationships. As I approached 30, I finally started to grow up. When I met my husband, people who had known my history couldn’t believe that I was attracted to someone like him (i.e. someone nice). They kept implying that I was kidding myself, and that I would regret suppressing my true feelings. 7 years later, our marriage is growing strong, and developing better values has served me well. Now if only I could change other areas of my personality…

  • Mary Kochan

    Claire, I don’t think what you describe here is a change of personality. I think it is a change of character — and that is what real conversion does. Our character is created by our choices. Personality, though is really shaped a lot by our genes and maybe by early environment. It is not easily changed. Really God loves all kinds of personalities, so we don’t need to change that, but we do all need a holy character.

    • Claire Boeck

      Very true, Mary. However, I do have some less than admirable personality traits that were present prior to my conversion and unfortunately are still here. They’re so integral that they’re hard to change.