As we grow up, we learn how to relate to people simply by watching. Then we pick up “techniques” how to get what we want or have our way. You would be surprised even little babies know how to manipulate parents to get what they want, through simple “crying”. It is because they find out that crying “technique” brings their parents obliging to their wants. So they repeat.
When we grow older, we learn even more techniques how to stay social and make friends, in order to have a sense of belonging. Those who are good with these techniques tend to make more friends than the other and seem to succeed in social life.
However, though techniques certainly help, it cannot improve what is fundamentally missing: “Character”. Many self-help books provide quick-fix, get-rich-fast type of advice which works for a while but unable to bring lasting changes in human life because it is fundamentally about benefiting “you”. It is self-serving at its root. Unless this ultimate “motive” changes, there is no true change.
Author Stephen Covey, in his best selling book “The 7 Habits of highly effective people” said, “…if there is no permanent character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motivation to surface…”. For example, we know listening is vital in succeeding in human relationships. But listening techniques are not enough to have healthy, lasting relationship. You can’t listen too long when your motive for listening is self-serving. Stephen says it requires “emotional strength” such as patience, openness and desire to understand, which is fundamentally about benefiting “others”. Such emotional strength comes from character, not techniques.
Such character change takes a long time because it is a major paradigm shift. It goes against our human nature that wants a quick result. Then how do we work on our character?
Many experts will provide different solutions but Bible calls this lasting change as the “fruit of the Spirit”. As the name implies, it is a natural outcome that is not forced through effort. When someone receives Jesus and the Holy Spirit enters that person, he begins the work of renewal that produces patience, kindness, and love inside, which the person didn’t have before. Unless we see the need for help, we will resort to quick-fix techniques to have a better life, which does not last. True change has to come “inside-out” and it comes only from intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. So let’s work on our character, not techniques.