Five Reasons Why They Will Never Change

Five Reasons Why They Will Never Change

I’ve often heard the words ‘They will never change’, but what if God’s Spirit grabbed them? What if resurrection light was invited to glow?

There’s always have a chink in my spirit when I hear the words ‘They will never change.’

Alongside those words may come phrases such as ‘A leopard can’t change its spots’ and ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

It distresses me because it confines people into boxes of concrete.

‘They will never change’ becomes a tomb of finality.

Yet I don’t believe God is ever finished with any of us.

God is the hound of heaven that we all, to some degree, flee from.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Hound of heaven Francis Thompson

I believe that

  • The addict can change.
  • People with personality disorders can change
  • Depression can lift and become a memory.
  • Anxiety can leave, and peace becomes the norm.
  • Voices can subside
  • Trauma can heal
  • The dead can find resurrection
  • Dry bones can find dance. Ezekiel 37:1-14

If I didn’t believe this, then I would have given up this type of writing and ministry long ago.

But I have found some reasons people refuse to change.

Why they will never change

  1. Pride and stubborn arrogance
    This quote from Richard Rohr says it well. 

    To pray and actually mean “thy Kingdom come,” we must also be able to say “my kingdoms go.” Richard RohrAll of us have a stubborn arrogance within ourselves that says ‘My kingdom stays.’
    C.S. Lewis says, ‘pride is a spiritual cancer’.

    Do we say to ourselves, ‘I stubbornly refuse to look at myself and change because my kingdom is good.’

  2. There is no awareness of the need to change
    This is similar to pride and arrogance, but it’s more subtle. It’s an unconscious incompetency.
    They don’t know what they don’t know.
    There is a need to shift to an awareness, or a consciousness, of one’s incompetence.
    A place where they know, that they don’t know.
    Conscious Competence Learning Matrix
  3. A Lack of knowledge
    There is a lack of knowledge about what is needed to make the change.
    It’s information, skills, wisdom. Possibly it’s that ‘eureka’ discovery of that piece of information that they never knew.
    It could be a diagnosis, a personality profile discovery, it could be many things.
    But they have a piece of knowledge that explains so much and helps them to move forward and change.
    I think of a shop assistant I was talking to recently who discovered in his 50’s that he has ADHD and how much this has helped him. It explained so many things and offered new ideas to how this could change his life.
  4. A Lack of wise support
    I think of those who have made deep long-lasting change, and it’s because they have had some wise support people around them.
    It may be a coach, a counsellor, a friend, but it will always be a community of people (A nest) that encourages millimetre steps of faulty dance steps.
    Change takes time and we need long haul supporters.
  5. Others maintain them in their lack of need to change
    They will never change because others around them like the way they are.
    It might be a fear of ‘rocking the boat’ or they might be getting some sort of reward because of the other’s behaviour.
    I remember someone rescuing a mentally unwell man because it actually met a mothering need within her.
    He was not allowed to face life and its challenges. Her rescuing kept him in a cell of both of their making.

Oh yes, by the way, they will change.

Everyone changes, but it might not be for the good. Those old thinking and behaviour patterns get further and further entrenched, to the point where they become as deep as the Grand Canyon.

The change they experience leaves them far from God’s perfect design. God still accepts us all, flawed in so many ways.

I believe in the resurrection where even the dead can come back to life. Even the dead in their ‘I can’t change and I won’t change’ beliefs.

I believe that those entombed in concrete can break free into a new and glorious life. That’s why I do what I do.

Freedom (Frudakis) sculpture

Do you want to change?

Is there a resistance to changing for the better?

Looking over those five reasons people don’t change, what most resonates with you?

I think of a nice, safe chrysalis where a butterfly is developing. One day, that butterfly will burst out.

It happens kind of by instinct with butterflies. But we have a choice.

We can stay safe in a thickening wall of skin or we can push and breakthrough to something new and unknown. Scarey stuff.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anaïs Nin

p.s. Please, instead of working on them to change, work on yourself and it might inspire them to do the work.


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Quotes to consider

  • A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. C. S. LewisMere Christianity
  • For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense. C. S. LewisMere Christianity 
  • The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. C. S. LewisMere Christianity 
  • People change when they … Hurt enough that they have to, Learn enough that they want to, and Receive enough that they are able to. John C. Maxwell
  • We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die. W.H. Auden
  • When you are no longer able to change, what will God do with you, if you have not yet become what He wants? David Riddell
  • Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behaviour than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? David Riddell
  • Maybe this struggle will last years before it finally becomes inner experience. So to say you believe it, and yet avoid its often inherent unreasonability, contradictions, dilemmas, and tensions, is to not really understand its purpose and message at all. It will have no transformative effect on you. Richard Rohr
  • All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another. Anatole France 

Questions to answer

  1. If you were to rank the 5 reasons people don’t change into a list of importance, what do you think would be the top reason?
  2. Change can be hard. What are 5 things have you found that helps you to change?
  3. What has been a positive change in your life in the recent years? It doesn’t have to big. A small change is probably even more important because small changes add up.

Formation exercise

  • Read the quotes and comments I have shared about pride and arrogance as being a factor that holds people back from change. Where have you seen this in your life? What’s it like to admit and say ‘I need help?’

Further reading

The 3 Lies of “I Can’t,” “They Can’t” and “I Won’t”

I Say ‘Resurrection’ to The Mocker

Change can feel like Being on the Wrong Side of the Road

Barry Pearman

Photo by Tobi Oluremi on Unsplash




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