19-year-old Dennis recently made the news after he was sentenced to 60 days in jail for stealing a beer from a convenience store. He stole the $3.37 beer to celebrate having just gotten out of jail.
I watch people who repeat the same mistakes and wonder, “Will they ever learn?” But I need to ask myself the same question. Like everyone else, I have patterns of behavior that I tend to repeat despite the negative results they produce. These patterns may become so familiar that I don’t even recognize them as harmful; I continue to experience their consequences (repeated relationship difficulties, familiar negative emotions, the “bad luck” that follows me everywhere) while failing to realize that I am a common denominator in these problems.
Significant, healthy change begins by first focusing on myself rather than on the people or circumstances around me. It means asking God to search out my heart. It means being vulnerable enough to ask trusted people to help me understand how others really experience me. It means listening more and defending myself less. It means being willing to be more intentional in experiencing relationships in new ways rather than following the old, familiar paths.
Want to learn more? A good book for helping individuals identify and adjust negative life patterns is Reinventing Your Life by Jeffrey Young and Janet Klasko. For understanding how these patterns work (and can change) in your marriage, check out How We Love by Milan & Kate Yerkovich.