Unification News for April 1997

Awareness and Change

Peter Steeghs
April, 1997
Kerrville, TX

Every human being desires happiness, and every healthy person has ideals and aspirations. Without an ideal, our lives are without inspiration or direction. We all hope to become better at something: better in our job or profession, a better parent, a better colleague, a better friend. Improving our self ultimately means that we have to become not just better "at" something, but that we also have to better ourselves as a human being. For instance, a person who wants to become a better parent cannot just focus on techniques, but must center himself on becoming a more balanced and loving human being.

In spite of all our good intentions and efforts to direct all our behaviors in a positive way, there are also behaviors over which we seem to lack influence. At times we tend to lose control, act in self- defeating ways, contradict ourselves, lose track of our intentions, block our own goals, show our hang-ups and prejudices. Many of the responses we formed over the years have through repetition become involuntary and automatic. Quite often we sense that our emotions and reactions are triggered by reflexes we are not fully aware of. Not until we do become aware of the ways in which we react can we say, "Oh, I see!"

Increasing self-awareness represents a "bringing into consciousness" and forms the key to changing ourselves. The ability to be self-aware is one of the major qualities which sets humans apart from animals, who are destined to repeat their behavior based on their instincts without knowing why. Increasing our self-awareness is a necessity. In fact, we are not able to change the outcome of anything unless we can acknowledge what it is which we want to do differently, and intentionally decide to direct our efforts accordingly.

The necessity of becoming aware in order to be able to make changes in our attitudes and behaviors also pertains to helping others make changes. We can never change other people just by telling them what to do or not do. As long as a person is unable to recognize the truth and meaning of what you are telling him, and is unable to relate its significance to his own situation, you might as well talk to a wall. The person will simply not be able to hear, see and digest what is said.

Changing ourselves requires intention, and helping others make changes requires patience. Some people's behavior may perhaps be even more imperfect than our own, but you cannot force that behavior out of someone, let alone force a new behavior into them. You can only help someone effectively if she/he is open to it; and while attempting to guide him/her in becoming more aware of themselves, hold them responsible for their actions at the same time. Trying to help someone make changes may take a lot of time, a lot of patience, and success is by no means guaranteed.

It is important, however, that the person who is trying to help others also has a constant willingness to examine himself as well. Our personal attitudes and perceptions will inevitably influence the attitudes of others toward us, and will affect their willingness to consider what we may have to offer. We all have our hang-ups and blind spots, and unless we have in our attitude a constant willingness to change and improve ourselves, it will be near impossible to just one-sidedly expect change from the other person.

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