Whether people can actually change is up for hot debate. Some psychology professionals insist that lifestyle changes can inspire behavioral change. For instance someone might lose weight to prepare for a new work environment filled with fit colleagues.
Others claim that change occurs after major life events—childbirth, divorce, death of a loved one. Studies have shown major life events change our value systems resulting in new behaviors. Then of course in 1967 psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe came up with the “Life Change Units” chart to estimate how major life events can affect our health.
Academics aside, my father, an authority on several aspects of life, says that people can change over time but their personalities remain the same. My dad said as a boy my brother assembled his blocks with the keen precision of an artisan. Three decades later he’s a meticulous remodeler. And as a bald tyke I loved sparkly, lacy dresses and socializing with the whole neighborhood. True to form today my closet is packed with girlie accoutrement and strangers are merely friends I haven’t met yet.
My dad said whether people change or not, it’s more important to sympathize with another person’s feelings especially when they’re not the same as your own. Papa Joe sited my mother’s birthday as the perfect example. As he tells it, he always remembered to get my mother a nice gift. However on her 50th birthday my mother was disappointed to find my father hadn’t planned anything special. My dad’s hands flung out to his sides, index fingers up to the sky as he emphasized, “Your mother let me know she was upset.”
Change or no change, accept others. That’s straight from Papa Joe, who admitted with a chuckle, “I was married over 30 years and you’d think I’d know to book a weekend in Rockport for me and your mother. Like most people I’d like to think I’m smarter than I actually am.”