This post that appeared on social media captured my attention. "You can't make someone change". That is a powerful statement and behind it is a very powerful lesson that needs to be learnt. The only person in this world that you or I have both the power to change and also the responsibility to change is ourselves. It is when we begin to think that we have either the power or responsibility to change someone else that we begin to operate in destructive behaviours such as manipulation, intimidation and control. As much as we would love to change other people, we can't; no matter how frustrating and unfair that may feel at times.
So what do we do with challenging people who do not want to change, who want to continue to relate to us in old, hurtful even destructive ways, and/or who are holding us to unfair or unrealistic expectations? We release them. To release means to "free from confinement, bondage, obligation, pain, to let go; to free from anything that restrains".
The first step to releasing someone is to acknowledge that you don't have the power to change that person and acknowledge that it is not your responsibility to change that person either; only they have the power to decide to change and to do the hard work of adjusting their thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, attitudes. Each person in a relationship needs to work as hard as the other at taking responsibility for the health and well being ofthe relationship. Secondly, realise that you have unmet expectations of that person. Let's be honest. The reason we usually want to change people is because they don't live up to our expectations. I once heard it said that "expectations are premeditated resentments". Expectations are rarely communicated and yet frequently enforced. Peter McHugh says "Expectation sets up either success or failure...expectation is conditional love".
We need to take time to reflect and work out what expectations we are holding people to and then actually speak out or write out what we are releasing them from. This may be something we do quietly on our own or it may be necessary to tell the other person what we are releasing from them. Are we releasing them from an expectation that they will meet our needs? An expectation that they will fulfill the dream that we have inside of our heart and mind of the role they would play in our lives? An expectation that they will stop praying for us to come back into the destructive relationship? An expectation that they will stop pretending that there is not a problem that needs a solution? An expectation that they will want to seek professional help and work the problem out together? An expectation that they will stop playing the victim role and stop making out that we are the perpetrator? An expectation that they will see us for who we truly are and embrace the changes that have taken place in our heart and mind and lives? Whatever the expectations are, we need to actively release those people from the prisons of those expectations, from the obligation to fulfill those expectations, and to let go.
Once we have released people from the prison of expectation we also give ourselves permission to be free. We can confidently go about life developing our character, growing, creating new relationships, discovering who we really are, being joyful. We can still encourage growth in the other person, we can still hope for change, but we are no longer bound to the outcome of that situation and we no longer bind them to it either. Instead of being concerned with the problems or issues we see in another, we can instead focus on taking responsibility for ourselves, making powerful choices about how we will live our lives and learning to live in health and fullness.