How do we get people to change?
I gave this lesson in my church and so I thought I’d share it with you, dear readers. When we are talking about changing people’s lives through Christ-like service, I believe there are some important and hard questions we need to ask ourselves.
The first might be “how concerned are we about helping other people, change their lives for the better?” (…especially our own children, as they grow older and start making more of their own decisions.)
If we are trying to follow Christ, then finding ways to improve other peoples lives should always be in the back of our minds. It’s something we should be trying to do out of love for our spiritual brothers and sisters everywhere, and as a result of the love we have for God.
Do we ever have our own ulterior motives for helping certain people change their lives, especially when it’s our children or people in our own families?
Sometimes I feel that I know what my children need to change and I know the best way for them to do it. But often my motives are not based in true charity and Christ-like love. They are based in my feeling that I know what’s best. And the manifestations of that attitude in me are impatience, judgmental feelings, negativity, and not being able to understand things from my children’s point of view.
Obviously, that approach is not going to be an effective way to encourage my children and others to make lasting positive changes in their lives. The best type of change comes from the inside out, not from the outside in. None of us likes to be forced. We often become resistant to change if we feel we are being coerced.
When I have found my children using force with each other to get a sibling to do what they want them to do, I have asked them, why are you using force? Why don’t you ask patiently? And they sometimes say, “Oh mom that doesn’t work. I’ve tried that before many times and it didn’t work.” Well, I try to explain that force does seem to work in the short term but it will never effectively change people’s hearts in the long-term.
Fear is the same way. We can worry that someone (especially when it’s our child) is going to make a poor choice and so we begin to exert OUR will or make OUR opinion known. But this also does not usually work very well, as fear is the exact opposite of love.
In the New Testament, 1st John 4:18 it reads, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
So, what IS the best way to help people change their lives for the better?
I believe it needs to start with us. We need to have a true desire and willingness to see things through the Lord’s loving perspective. We need to be willing to serve and set a good example ourselves so that we are in a position of inspiring others to WANT to make better choices in their lives. We sometimes need to let go of our expectations and just love the person we are concerned about, without any personal agendas of time or method.
I believe that service is an excellent way to manifest our love.
There are so many different ways that we can do Christ-like service for others. Some ideas that I’ve been thinking of, are preparing and providing food for others, listening, fixing things (I have a neighbor that does that for us and it’s a wonderful service to our family!), being a good example, reading to someone (like our kids), driving someone somewhere they need to go, helping, teaching.
Teaching is an especially powerful way to serve others. It’s really God’s Spirit that teaches, as we are willing to be His instrument. When people acquire new skills and learn new things, they are empowered. They become more capable and their quality of life is often improved. This helps them feel better about themselves.
This is one reason why families bring long-term joy and happiness. From the time our children are born, we teach them and teach them and teach them. Does this ever really end? I still turn to my parents from time to time to seek their wisdom. Both parents and children are edified by this process when the relationships are positive.
Family history is another area where there is great service happening. Those who help others with genealogy are connecting people to their ancestors. This is an important work that changes people’s lives. It changed my life to learn some stories of my ancestors. Knowing more about them makes me grateful for all they did and proud of who I am.
What challenges prevent us from doing Christ-like service?
Sometimes I think we get caught in a trap of feeling like we need to have more time or more money to be able to do Christ-like service for others. Service does often take time and money is definitely a useful tool in many cases. But when we have love and willingness, the Lord can make up the rest.
Mike and I know a couple down in Nicaragua named Marlin and Kennia.
They are very busy and do not have extra money according to our standards. They have been trying to help twin 18-year-old boys in their church prepare to do missionary work. They have involved these boys in good activities and in helping with a nonprofit agency there. These boys have absolutely no material wealth whatsoever. We were able to visit their home a few months ago. It was basically a wooden structure with sheets hanging on the inside to divide the rooms and a tin roof overhead. We gave each of the boys a new soccer ball to thank them for helping us with some humanitarian work.
We found out recently that the boys mother just passed away due to illness. We are very sad for these boys to lose their mother. But they are still determined to do missionary work. We are so happy to know that Marlin and Kennia have been helping them have a strong foundation in Christ and have been preparing a way financially for them to do missionary work. This selfless service will change these boys’ lives forever.
There are people around each one of us that we can influence in countless ways for good. When we aren’t worried about reward or reimbursement, when we forget about how hard it seems and we just do what needs to be done, when we ask the Lord to help us find ways to perform Christ-like service for others, miraculous things can happen. Our relationships can be healed, love and loyalty are fostered, we and those we serve are uplifted.
In St. John 21:12 of the New Testament, Christ asks Peter, “Lovest thou me?” and Peter replied, “thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
When we serve others with real love, we feed them spiritually and they can experience positive changes and be inspired to change their own lives as a result. Jesus Christ showed us the most effective and correct way to help others, and more importantly ourselves, prepare for eternal life and find happiness in this life. If we study his example, we can become more like him and have the Spirit of the Lord more strongly with us as we strive to serve others, including our own children or spouse, in true Christ-like love.
Have you ever had your heart changed by someone’s selfless service?