People never change. Their opinions and their thoughts are what they are, and nothing can change that.
When I prepare sermons, and reflect upon sermons I’ve preached, I sometimes think, People never change. What’s the point of preaching?
When I read about polarizing political topics, I often think, People never change. What’s the point in even sharing my opinion?
When I consider whether I should even write anything at all, or talk to anyone about something important, I often think, People never change. What’s the point in bothering? Better to just sit here and play video games.
That’s something I believe, even though I have no evidence for it. In fact, I have lots of evidence to the contrary. I have seen people change their minds about things. I have experienced myself changing my mind about things. And yet, I stubbornly hold onto that belief, despite what my eyes and my memory tell me. It gives me some serious cognitive dissonance, because I know it’s not true, and yet I believe it.
And I think I have a guess why. It’s all about the Dark Voice, the voice inside my head that always tells me terrible things about myself. On one level, the Dark Voice is certainly at work when I think things like that, because they’re attempts to make me feel bad, attempts to keep me from doing anything, attempts to keep me down. That’s the D.V.’s m.o. all the way through.
But it’s more than that, I think. I think I find it so easy to believe, so easy to slip into this way of thinking, so hard to fight this irrational belief, because I do have some evidence. The evidence I have is the Dark Voice himself. Because he never changes. He has grown up with me, and his words have gotten more sophisticated as I’ve grown. His arguments have gotten more nuanced. (He and I share the same brain, so we are always evenly matched.) But his opinions have never changed even the tiniest bit. He still thinks that I am worthless, just as he thought when I was a teenager. He still thinks that I cause more pain than I’m worth. He still believes that I am a failure, that I “should have known better” at just about everything I’ve ever done. Nothing has changed his opinion. No evidence convinces him, and I don’t think any will. That’s just the nature of the beast, I suppose.
But the thing is, he is my constant companion. I don’t encounter anyone quite as often as I encounter him. And so I see him there, never changing, never growing, never evolving, certainly never reconsidering his prior opinions. Perhaps it’s left a mark on me. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard for me to remember that real people do change their opinions. Real people do reconsider. Real people (like me) can grow and evolve.
And maybe if I can somehow pay more attention to the real people around me, and less to my dismal companion, maybe I can start finding that easier to believe.