Amenable to Change

Several years ago, I saw an adult male client in counseling. He was probably in his early 40s, and he sought treatment to overcome several family-of-origin issues. My client had experienced many betrayals over the course his childhood, even into young adulthood, from various family members. The anger and bitterness he carried with him were palpable to outsiders, and he did not want to let any of it go. Although he verbally expressed wanting to move on, he did not want to extend forgiveness to the ones who hurt him. Instead, he wanted them to pay for how they had hurt him, and he spent his time mentally and verbally rehearsing all of the transgressions against him. This client, unfortunately, was what we would call "not amenable to therapy," meaning he was resistant to change.

I think of another client I saw about the same time. She was an adult female, probably several years older than my male client. She was a successful professional, and no one would have known the issues she carried with her because she concealed them well. But issues did she have, and they were deep and painful and also extending all the way back to her childhood. This client had several negative coping mechanisms for handling life's stressors, and she had developed them as a child to cope with verbal and physical abuse. Over the course of therapy, we explored issues of forgiveness, and this client began to realize and experience a freedom she had never known before as she let go of the painful past.

Two people, both experiencing betrayals in childhood from those who should have been trusted with their well-being, but what they did with these life experiences resulted in two completely different outcomes. On the one hand, we have one who chose to remain in his bitterness and maladaptive thinking, feeling, and doing. For the pain others had caused him, this man chose to live in captivity to their betrayals. On the other hand, we have another who experienced great and tragic pain and rejection as a child. But as an adult, she finally chose to expose these betrayals and to no longer let them rule her life.

The same choice begs to be made from all of us in life. Are you amenable to change? Another word for the fancy word "amenable" would be "responsive." Are you responsive to change, willing to embrace it? Change, even positive change, can be a very painful process, but the reward is great.

photo via

photo via

A goal of escaping life unscathed and avoiding painful experiences is unrealistic. We cannot always control what happens to us. We cannot control others' actions, save isolating ourselves completely. But we can control our response to these things. We can control whether we choose to let life rule our hearts or to let God rule our hearts. And there is a very big difference between the two.

Returning once again to Psalm 55, we find King David making the choice to not allow betrayal to rule him. He writes in verse 22, "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved."

Cast your burden on the Lord...

It sounds so easy, but really it is not. Casting your burden on the Lord will require much of you. It requires extending forgiveness to your offenders. It requires letting go of any right to vengeance. It requires trusting that God, in all His infinite wisdom, is able to handle your pain and also to deal with your offender.

It requires letting go of control and being amenable to change. Only this change is not a human-inspired change. It is change of the Holy Spirit at work in your heart. It is a change that exposes the ugly to make beautiful. It is a change that removes the masks to make genuine.

Forgiven, Part 1

Facing the Pain