Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Slide Show

Can people really change?

When I’m introspective I try to examine my life as an objective third party. Of course that’s impossible, but I try anyway. I perform a Google search in my mind: type, ‘Matt, discipline,’ or ‘Matt, patience,’ and immediately my brain cues a slide show featuring the most relevant footage from my life. It’s almost always depressing.

Like magic the movie starts to roll: Look, there’s skinny me, energetically taping a workout plan to the refrigerator. Next clip. Me again, wait, I’m tearing it down? What? Why? Next clip. There I am pumping iron in Virginia. I’m a sexy beast! Next clip. Oh no, it’s me in bed at noon. My bad. Next clip. Is that my belly growing? Next clip. Am I ignoring the alarm clock again? Isn’t Todd waiting in the gym? Next clip. Two sandwiches? Is that necessary? Next clip. Next clip. Next clip.

I remember dozens of times I’ve tried and failed to discipline myself with exercise, devotions, healthy eating, whatever. My mind is adept at replaying those memories in rapid sequence, reminding me that I haven’t matured at all since graduating from high school.

The emerging pattern confirms my fears; I’m a degenerate man becoming increasingly degenerate. It verges on overwhelming when I’ve invested serious effort but fail to change. Like my chronic impatience for example. I’m always pushing everything way too fast.

Uh-oh, here comes another slide show: kid asks dumb question in class; I kick his chair. Long winded professor; I bring my chess board. Scenes of torrid impatience tumble through my memory like old nightmares. Unfortunately they connect the dots with current situations to form a longstanding pattern of terminal impatience.

This week I hit a new low. Someone was instructing me to complete a certain checklist. To me the goal was a finished list; to them it was something totally different. They wanted to pause on an unfinished detail and give it the proper attention. I wanted to keep going. We paused. That pause uncovered a series of tasks that needed immediate action. I wanted to divide and conquer; they wanted to tackle them together, one at a time.

My leg began to twitch with nervous energy. I re-focused my eyes, cracked my fingers, bit the inside of my cheek; anything to keep from screaming. Life would certainly not continue if we didn’t finish that list immediately! My eyes glazed over and we painstakingly carried on. My chest was broiling with anxiety; I was confident I would erupt at any moment.

Why am I like this? I can’t help being in a hurry. I always want to be done. I compulsively need to know exactly what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and if I can try to do it fast and alone. I’m impatient with people, I’m impatient with myself, and I’m just plain impatient with life.

My best guess is that I’m lazy. I want to be done so I can entertain myself. I want to waste time doing nothing. I’m not motivated by noble causes; my flames are stoked by pleasing myself. No, I don’t want to help you. No, I don’t want to learn that. Yes, I’ll do the bare minimum thanks. Now hurry up so I can be alone.

When I look inside there’s an endless supply of things to hate about myself. It gets cyclical at times. But the part that really wrenches my gut is the idea that I can’t change. It’s ominous to see patterns without improvement. Like investing in a stock market that’s in a thirty year slump. You look at the graphs and they’re just not trending in the right direction. Welcome to my life.

And because I see it in me, I see it everywhere. I see an old man still victimized by his childhood. I see a workaholic destroying his third marriage. I see a bankrupt family leasing a new car. And I see a girl dating another loser, convinced that this time her love will fix him. The merry-go-round keeps on spinning. The slide show never ends. So you tell me, can people really change?


  1. Yes. They can. By the grace of God, and by doing something that is uncomfortable long enough so that it becomes comfortable. The pain of regret is worse than the pain of discipline. These things are what I have found to be true as I finally, FINALLY have made the changes in my life that I've been trying to since, um, forever. Almost 120lbs lost later, I look forward to going to the gym, get anxious and feel off if I don't get there, and it makes me HAPPY to work out. That's sick. That's not me. No, that's not the old me, but it IS the new me!

    Anyway, I know sort of it's apples and oranges, my weight loss journey vs the path you are walking, but changing one's habits, lifestyles and thought patterns are all really essentially the same thing, IMO.

    So 100% it's never too late to change, ever!

  2. Matt Drake~

    I'm not going to give you a pat answer, because they just annoy the living crap out of me. I will say, however, that you seem to describe the "old" me in many of these blogs. Gaining 100 pounds within a year (which is a cruel irony for an impatient perfectionist who rarely sits still), deaths of some very close people, loss after loss, burned by church, disowned by my family... blah blah blah. We all have a story. The point is that change is a decision with fire lit under it's butt. You have to plow through the darkness without becoming consumed by it. If you camp out too long and beat yourself up, then change is impossible because you will just see the ugliness within yourself and all around you instead of the awesome God that calls out to you. Put the whip away and give your scarred back a break. I challenge you to keep getting up and to get through this season stronger and healthier.

  3. Matt, I love that you are giving us a chance to know the REAL you and love you for who you are.

    I admire you for taking the time to write and work through things. I am proud to know you. And not at all ashamed to have worked beside you.

    May mercy triumph over judgment even in your assessment of yourself. You are not a failure. You are a chosen son. Maybe you know that already? Maybe this all just sounds cliche to you? But God himself chose to limit His very own view so that He could see you forgiven and set free as an heir in His kingdom. Cliche... I don't think so.

    Take it from a woman who just gave away the dearest relationship in her life out of obedience to God because she knew she could trust Him. Take it from someone who beat herself up for years because she could never measure up and then finally found out that she didn't have to. Take it from me. Or don't.

    It really doesn't matter. I am glad to be your sister no matter what.

  4. Of course people can change Matt, that is why we are here....

  5. At first when I was reading this, I was thinking, "Yes! We can definitely change!" Then I realized that often I find myself fighting the same old battles that I always felt. The same traps I've always fallen into. I, too, have felt extremely frustrated by my seeming inability to change. I've asked God, "Why can't I change? Why do I go through the same things over and over and never change at all??"

    Lately, though, I think I'm changing a little bit. I don't know if I'm trying harder or what. Maybe I'm sick of my old self and I want to be different. But I think it's working, at least a little.

    Jen Moore's life is inspiring to me, because it makes me see that it really IS possible to become the person that you want to be, instead of the person that you've always been. If she can do it, I want to believe that I can do it, too.

  6. Change... hmmm, it's based on your perspective. The good news... you're getting a new one;)