How to Make Someone Change
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. Mark 4:26-27
It’s maddening to watch someone destroy his life in an addiction. We can’t stand by and do nothing, but no matter what we do or say, it doesn’t seem to change anything. Why won’t he listen? What can I do to get through to him?
It’s the most common question I get. What can I do to stop this? Not only is it painful to watch the addict, it’s painful to watch those around the addict struggle with the powerlessness and futility they feel in not being able to help. As loved ones, we feel responsible to intervene, yet we simply cannot fix an addiction.
What are we to do? In today’s passage, Jesus gave some insight into the answer. In the parable, he said the kingdom of God is like a seed we scatter. We don’t cause it to sprout into a plant, we just participate in the sowing. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear (Mark 4:28). We may plant the seed, but we aren’t capable of causing it to grow. That is God’s work.
With the addict, we cannot force him to change. We can however, live the life of faith, allowing God to transform us. We can share the truth of what God has done for us and we can share his love with the one struggling. That is where our liability and ability ends. We are simply not responsible to recover or have faith for anyone else and we are not asked to carry that burden.
It helps me to remember my own journey. I can clearly recall those who, long ago, gave of themselves in an attempt to help me. It must have been maddening to see me repeatedly return to my destructive behavior. Years later though, the seeds they sowed have finally taken root, growing into the faith and recovery I have today.
We can’t make someone else change and God doesn’t ask us to do so. The biggest challenge for us often, is to let go of that burden. God only asks us to share his truth and love, leaving the results up to him.