“Stop wishing for others to change into who you think they should be. They aren’t focused on what you think. They are too busy finding their way.”
Even though spring has officially started, here in the Northeast it certainly doesn’t feel that way.
We’ve had freezing cold temperatures, windstorms worthy of winter coats, and snow—yes, inches upon inches of snow. As I write this, it is torrentially downpouring out; there’s not a hint of warmth, sun, leaves or flowers.
All of this unexpected April weather has made people cranky. Why can’t it feel like spring yet?
And it’s made me remember a valuable life lesson.
There are certain things in life that are simply out of our control. No matter how hard we may wish or ask, we cannot change the weather. And just like we can’t change the weather, we cannot change someone’s will.
On some instinctual level we all know this, yet at some point or another we have all tried to change someone we love.
A few years ago I was deeply worried about someone I love dearly. I felt frustrated by my friend’s choices and wanted her so desperately to do things differently. We had many a conversation about her situation and I was open about what I thought she should do to sort out her life.
Months went by and nothing had changed.
I grew more upset and more adamant. Still, nothing changed.
And, here’s what I learned:
Our will isn’t always someone else’s way. And that’s okay. (Tweet that!)
Try as you might, you cannot alter someone’s will.
It doesn’t matter if you are coming from a loving place. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been there, done that, awarded yourself an honorary degree on the topic, and want to help. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you are right.
You cannot change the tide and you cannot change someone’s mind.
And what’s more? You shouldn’t try to.
It’s hard to watch people you love make a choice you feel is a mistake. But let go and trust it’s all happening for a reason. Maybe you are right. But consider that maybe they need to make that mistake and grow from it. And maybe you are wrong and their choice will work out perfectly well.
Either way it doesn’t matter.
We have to give each other the space to just be. We have to allow and accept and be gracious to our loved ones—for their sake and for ours, for their sanity and for ours. Offer advice, lend a sympathetic ear and be as loving as you can be. But then, you must let it go.
Around that same time when I was worrying for my loved one, I went to see spiritual guru Gabrielle Bernstein speak. At one point an audience member shared a story of how her son was battling a drug addiction. The mom was beside herself. She wanted to know how she could make her son change his destructive behavior and choose to live a healthier, happier life.
I’ll never forget Gabby’s response to this.
She said, “You can’t change your son’s behavior. But you can pray for your son to have the insight he needs to want to make a change in his life.”
I thought that was beautiful.
Instead of praying and wishing and hoping for your loved ones to change into who you want or to do what you want, pray instead for them to be open to a new choice, a new behavior, a new life.
Stop praying for a specific outcome and start praying for the inspiration that will lead to a new outcome. (Tweet that!)
I left that talk and changed something I could control. I made a shift in my thoughts.
I stopped wishing for my friend to change or to be the way I wanted her to be. Instead, I prayed for her to see the possibility of change.
For a month I prayed every morning for that.
And a funny thing happened. I found myself less angry and less frustrated towards her choices. I found myself able to love her more and support her better. Those morning prayers felt so much more loving and giving than all the frustrated talks and sermons I had been throwing at her.
Because the thing is this. Eventually things do change. Maybe not the way you imagined, prayed and wished for, but maybe for the best. Things will change whether you are frustrated or not, so maybe it’s better to just let it go, give love and light, and let nature take its course.
Eventually the rain will stop and the sun will come out again. Eventually I will put away my winter boots and swap them for sunny-day-sandals.
Until then, I will wait. I will wait for the seasons to change at their own pace, at their own will.