Can I Change?


Can I change? This is a familiar question that comes up in counseling. We live in a time when the answer depends a lot on what a person's goal is in asking the question.

Some would tell us that they were born they way they are and that they cannot change. I have talked with any number of angry people who have forcefully informed me that they are the way they are and that I will just have to accept it! We tend to blame our genes for our overindulgence, inattention, proneness to worry, and an ever increasing number of behaviors.

So then, can we change or are we stuck with whatever we are born with and doomed to become what our DNA dictates?  Well, new research would tell us no!
In an article published last week, researchers the University of Southampton asked that question of people who are thought to be one of the most of the most difficult to change.

Narcissists are individuals who think only about themselves. They are "a bit full of themselves, self-centered, and don't seem too concerned about the effects they have on other people," according to Erica Hopper one of the researchers.
[ii] The question the project asked was could even narcissists, the most dedicated to themselves people on earth, learn to care about others?

The study found that even people who are highly narcissistic can learn to care about others in the right setting. When highly self centered individuals were asked to watch a video that dealt with the suffering of another they initially responded as we might expect without much empathy. But, when they were asked to put themselves in the place of the individual, the researchers found that they responded differently. Not only did the self centered participants express emotional concern for the sufferer, their heart rates increased in the same way it would in unselfish people.

When normally self centered and selfish people were asked to put themselves in the "shoes" of another sufferer, it changed them. And, that is exactly what we might expect in counseling.  People can change.  As Paul said, If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things pass away, new things are coming. (2Corinthians 5:17)

When any man or woman confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they are freed from the slavery of sinful selfishness.  The first and great command is to "Love The Lord your God with all your heart..., and your neighbor." (Matthew 22:37-39) Christians can and do choose to abandon selfish self-centeredness by God's grace. As Paul would tell us, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1Corinthians 10:24)  
And he also told us, that we could do this as Christ strengthens us! (Philippians 4:13)

It is always great when science invests grant money to prove something that we could have told them from the scriptures.


[i] Erica G. Hepper, Claire M. Hart, and Constantine Sedikides. Moving Narcissus: Can Narcissists Be Empathic? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, May 30, 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0146167214535812

[ii] Society for Personality and Social Psychology. "Can narcissists be moved to show empathy?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2014. <>.

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