Can People Change?


#1

A Tuesday Night Debate:D

Can a leopard change his spots?

Is putting forward the suggesion that a person with a bad past can never really change being pragmatic or profoundly un-Christian?

:confused:I’ve just been thinking about this because of a very dear friend of mine has just confided something about his past to me that has shocked me to the core! What he did was absolutely awful (trust me on this!) and I just can’t square it up with the decent, considerate and loving (in a brotherly sense ) man that I know (or thought I knew)

Part of me can see he is living in torment by his actions and punishing himself, so he deserves compassion. Part thinks ‘what a rat!’ and that while I should and will continue to pray for him, actually continuing the friendship is tantamount to condoning what he’s done and if he is basically flawed and weak, he will just end up hurting me.

Also, the 2 real classic examples of de-spotting leopards, St. Paul and St. Augustine, seem to be men who, once spot-free, so to speak, took the toughest stance on anyone vaguely spotty:) I have to say, I see the same tendencies from some posters on here:p

:smiley: I’d love to hear your views!


#2

Father Caropi would be a perfect example. He was a criminal with quite a past. He is an amazing priest. I watched his lecture on addictions yesterday and he covered some of his past life. It gave me hope.

I know that I have done some horrible things and hope that with God's grace I can become a better person. I definitely have learned from some of my mistakes.

I don't think you should just your friend by some horrible thing in his past but by what type of person he is now.


#3

[quote="Rose71, post:1, topic:225564"]
A Tuesday Night Debate:D

Can a leopard change his spots?

Is putting forward the suggesion that a person with a bad past can never really change being pragmatic or profoundly un-Christian?

:confused:I've just been thinking about this because of a very dear friend of mine has just confided something about his past to me that has shocked me to the core! What he did was absolutely awful (trust me on this!) and I just can't square it up with the decent, considerate and loving (in a brotherly sense ) man that I know (or thought I knew)

Part of me can see he is living in torment by his actions and punishing himself, so he deserves compassion. Part thinks 'what a rat!' and that while I should and will continue to pray for him, actually continuing the friendship is tantamount to condoning what he's done and if he is basically flawed and weak, he will just end up hurting me.

[/quote]

We truly do believe that people can be transformed in Christ. If not, our belief is in vain. Having said that, if a person has a history of behavior that may be repeated, it would be unwise to trust him implicitly. It really depends on whether his behavior is systemic or if it's a one time thing. And we should always be on our guard against letting ourselves be taken in by others luring us to them with a racy sob story. I would wonder why he felt he had to tell you all this and what he hoped he get in return for it. In a word, of course we should forgive, but this man's sin isn't against you, so I don't see why he needed to tell you. Once confessed a person should let go of his past and endeavor to live a pure life without referring to past sins. Do you see what I mean? I'd be cautious if I were you. But, only you can judge the circumstances. Still, we shouldn't shun people who have reformed their lives or judge their past behavior. If what he did was criminal, though, you are under no obligation to keep that a secret but might have to take appropriate actions to safeguard others who might be under his influence. I think I'd talk to my priest about such a situation, without naming names unless, as I say, he did something criminal for which he still has to answer to the law.

Also, the 2 real classic examples of de-spotting leopards, St. Paul and St. Augustine, seem to be men who, once spot-free, so to speak, took the toughest stance on anyone vaguely spotty:) I have to say, I see the same tendencies from some posters on here:p

:D I'd love to hear your views!

Oftentimes those who were the worst offenders become the harshest critics of their former way of life. And that's a good thing. Still, a person should be given time to prove their change of heart is real nor should temptation be deliberately put in their way lest they fall back into their old habits.


#4

Yes of COURSE people can change! It is the Holy Spirit who comes into us through the sacraments and He makes the changes! Or when we finally really LOOK at the cross of Jesus, and see the suffering He took on for us, that we feel such pain and regret for our past sins.

If people could not change, I would not be married with 2 fine sons and a loving husband. I would be standing on a street corner somewhere or lying in a drugged-out stupor. I would maybe be living some kind of marginal life, or on my 4th marriage to someone who didn't care about me. I know I would be miserable. Lonely. Empty.

Unfortunately it seems to work the other way as well - we always have the free will to walk away from the loving arms of Jesus and toward Satan...And we can turn away and pretend that God never blessed us in the first place...closing our eyes and our hearts.

Your friend, I hope, has given his sin to Jesus and if he's Catholic, confessed it and been absolved. He probably shouldn't have told you the sin. If it will not improve your life in any way, then he did not need to confide in you. He is probably tired of carrying it alone, but it's not a good thing that now you know the sin and not the process he went through to repent.


#5

:thumbsup: These are great posts - thanks for contributing.

I agree that as Catholics, we have to believe in forgiveness and we should judge people by the people they are now - not their past sins. This friend is not a Catholic and he is punnishing himself for what he did by carrying the guilt around with him and trying to please everybody all the time.

I do realise though, that I am unable to 'change' somebody - that people are born with free will and that I have to just put my trust in God that he will one day really come to terms with what he has done - acknowledge fully the harm it has caused to others and show he is really sorry to the people who have suffered through his actions.

Until he told me what he did, I valued his friendship deeply - but now I am finding it hard to believe I ever knew him at all.

The reason he told me is that I said I was going to pay a visit to the country where it took place - and he just came out with it. What he did was cheat on his then wife while he was working there - with a lady who he says went all out to seduce him, even though initially he told her he was married. This lady ended up having his child and when he realised he'd been deliberately trapped (she wanted to come to Britain) and she wasn't actually the sweet, innocent, loving little 'perfect woman' she'd portrayed herself as, he went home without her and hasn't been in contact since. Soon after, he and his real wife divorced as she had been cheating on him while he was away. They only married in the first place because she was pregnant and they felt it was the right thing to do. The sad thing is, far from being brought up to respect themselves and one another, they were both encouraged as teenagers to have an adult, physical relationship, because both families thought it was a good match for their own social standing - sick eh?

So, my sympathetic side thinks the poor guy never had much of a chance to develop any kind of moral compass and had already effectively messed up his life before he even hit 30 years old. The man he is now is kind, compassionate and a really respectful friend.

His revelation really threw me though - because I absolutely hate the thought of someone I had respect for cheating on his wife - and then creating a new life with somebody else and then abandoning the child along with the mother.

I have to believe there is forgiveness for everyone - or what is the point of being a Catholic? But, I also have to accept my friend is weak - I think he realises this too - but am I condoning what he's done by being his friend?

I always thought I was a good and fair person - but this is really testing my faith. Above all, I just want him to find happiness and inner peace:)


#6

I won't judge him on the cheating since all three adults were acting the same way. Not really worth being faithful to a cheating wife. And the other woman knew he was married.

The major problem I would have is the child. If he really changed and is feeling guilty then he would have checked on his child. Does he wonder if he has a son or a daughter? Is the child safe and loved? Does the child have shelter and food? He shouldn't be worried about pleasing other people, he should be taking care of his child. If he was my friend that is exactly what I would tell him. In fact, if he didn't step up and take care of his child then the friendship would be over. I can forgive almost anything but not when children are involved.


#7

[quote="cviolette, post:6, topic:225564"]
I won't judge him on the cheating since all three adults were acting the same way. Not really worth being faithful to a cheating wife. And the other woman knew he was married.

The major problem I would have is the child. If he really changed and is feeling guilty then he would have checked on his child. Does he wonder if he has a son or a daughter? Is the child safe and loved? Does the child have shelter and food? He shouldn't be worried about pleasing other people, he should be taking care of his child. If he was my friend that is exactly what I would tell him. In fact, if he didn't step up and take care of his child then the friendship would be over. I can forgive almost anything but not when children are involved.

[/quote]

Well, I can see his side of that issue because, as described, mother might merely use the child to get what she wants out of him. The mother didn't sound like a very moral person, but rather as someone out to use another person. It's unfortunate that a child is involved, that's true. But, she decided to keep her child, therefore, legally, the care of the child is hers. I'm not saying it's the high ground for him to have abandoned them, but he probably doesn't want to get involved with this woman again, and I can see his dilemma there.

As to condoning his past behavior by being his friend now, no, that's not what you are doing, Rose. It sounds like he needs a friend. Just be clear what being his friend means to you--that you are not interested in a romantic relationship with him. And even though he's not a Catholic suggesting he talk to a priest couldn't hurt him. After all, the Church is there for all people in need of forgiveness, and that's what he needs--forgiveness and absolution. He could have that in the Church. And I'd encourage him to try to do something to support his illegitimate child. He could set up an account through a lawyer and so have no contact with the mother. For that he should consult an attorney.


#8

[quote="Della, post:7, topic:225564"]
Well, I can see his side of that issue because, as described, mother might merely use the child to get what she wants out of him. The mother didn't sound like a very moral person, but rather as someone out to use another person. It's unfortunate that a child is involved, that's true. But, she decided to keep her child, therefore, legally, the care of the child is hers. I'm not saying it's the high ground for him to have abandoned them, but he probably doesn't want to get involved with this woman again, and I can see his dilemma there.

[/quote]

I still could not be a friend of someone that abandoned their child. You sleep with someone, you pay the price. No one forced him to have sex. So you leave a child with a viper to raise him/her. Great idea.


#9

[quote="Della, post:7, topic:225564"]
Well, I can see his side of that issue because, as described, mother might merely use the child to get what she wants out of him. The mother didn't sound like a very moral person, but rather as someone out to use another person. It's unfortunate that a child is involved, that's true. But, she decided to keep her child, therefore, legally, the care of the child is hers. I'm not saying it's the high ground for him to have abandoned them, but he probably doesn't want to get involved with this woman again, and I can see his dilemma there.

As to condoning his past behavior by being his friend now, no, that's not what you are doing, Rose. It sounds like he needs a friend. Just be clear what being his friend means to you--that you are not interested in a romantic relationship with him. And even though he's not a Catholic suggesting he talk to a priest couldn't hurt him. After all, the Church is there for all people in need of forgiveness, and that's what he needs--forgiveness and absolution. He could have that in the Church. And I'd encourage him to try to do something to support his illegitimate child. He could set up an account through a lawyer and so have no contact with the mother. For that he should consult an attorney.

[/quote]

I agree with the previous poster that if he has really changed he will step up and see to the child. I'm uncertain what you mean when you say

"But she decided to keep her child, therefore, legally, the care of the child is hers."

But it seems like he abandoned them by taking off back home. Isn't it a good thing she kept the child? Should she have aborted the child? I'm really confused by what you meant here. Maybe I missed something. I don't know.

While setting up an account through a lawyer may be a good idea, I just can't help like feel that there is more to fathering a child than just financial security. It seems like he should want to know the child is safe and cared for and not being abused or living in some unfit conditions.

Perhaps just barging in to his/her life isn't the best idea, but certainly doing some checking to see what is going on with his own flesh and blood is necessary.

Anyways, I just can't help but feel if this leopard has really changed his spots, then you would see it, in how he deals with his own child.


#10

Here is where I am coming from - I knew a couple things (not the big horrible things just enough to build trust) about my xh and was told a wonderful conversion story. He had not changed. I still believe people can change - with the Grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. I cannot let this one experience ruin my ability to believe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Satan wins. I can however believe that there are some people that have rejected that Sacrament, the Church, God and anything to do with any of those things. Those people will not change without a profound miracle. Just my two cents.


#11

[quote="heart4home, post:9, topic:225564"]
I agree with the previous poster that if he has really changed he will step up and see to the child. I'm uncertain what you mean when you say

"But she decided to keep her child, therefore, legally, the care of the child is hers."

But it seems like he abandoned them by taking off back home. Isn't it a good thing she kept the child? Should she have aborted the child? I'm really confused by what you meant here. Maybe I missed something. I don't know.
.

[/quote]

Agreed. He abandoned his child and her mother, from your post I see nothing that he has done that has "changed" that fact.


#12

In my opinion, it's very complicated. Yes, people can change, no, you can't change them. IE-If you date a guy who smokes large amounts of pot every day, can't keep a job, and beats you-you can't change him. He needs to decide to. Same with a woman who is a rabid atheist and thinks that Christianity is for morons, no matter what you do-your not going to change her.


#13

About the child, yes, as I wrote, he should do something for the child he engendered out of wedlock. Is he legally responsible for him/her? Maybe not. Is he morally responsible, yes he is. What does this tell us about him? That we can only surmise. He has regrets and feels terrible about it. That's a good sign. Now he needs to do something concrete about it. He may have no idea what he should do, especially if he doesn't want to have to deal with the mother. So, contacting a lawyer is a good first step for that part of his dilemma. Contacting a priest or minister should be his first step to deal with his moral obligations. IOW, he needs to do more than have remorse, he needs to do something tangible to resolve the situation. Rose could advise him to take action, but she might want to first talk to her priest so he can advise her. The object is to both help her friend and help the child, if her friend decides to act--only he can make that decision. This would, indeed tell Rose if he is sincere about changing his life.


#14

[quote="Della, post:13, topic:225564"]
About the child, yes, as I wrote, he should do something for the child he engendered out of wedlock. Is he legally responsible for him/her? Maybe not. Is he morally responsible, yes he is. What does this tell us about him? That we can only surmise. He has regrets and feels terrible about it. That's a good sign. Now he needs to do something concrete about it. He may have no idea what he should do, especially if he doesn't want to have to deal with the mother. So, contacting a lawyer is a good first step for that part of his dilemma. Contacting a priest or minister should be his first step to deal with his moral obligations. IOW, he needs to do more than have remorse, he needs to do something tangible to resolve the situation. Rose could advise him to take action, but she might want to first talk to her priest so he can advise her. The object is to both help her friend and help the child, if her friend decides to act--only he can make that decision. This would, indeed tell Rose if he is sincere about changing his life.

[/quote]

Okay - that sounds good to me :) I am a grizzly bear when it comes to protecting kids :D


#15

[quote="cviolette, post:14, topic:225564"]
Okay - that sounds good to me :) I am a grizzly bear when it comes to protecting kids :D

[/quote]

Yes, I understand. :) My writing style is rather terse, and I don't always explain as well as I'd like. We can only give Rose so much advise and encouragement--it's one of the limitations of a public forum. It's why I advise Rose to talk to some reliable person, such as her priest, deacon, religious sister, or family counselor (preferably a Catholic counselor).


#16

Everyone needs to understand something. Yes, a person can change but only if that person wants to change. There is nothing you can do to change someone else. You can guide them and help them but you can't change them. Change has to come from within.


#17

I do realise nobody can change anybody else and that change has to come from within.

What I'm unsure about is whether a person can actually change long-term if they are prone to specific characteristics. For example, a person who has an addiction to, say, cigarettes or something else habit-forming, may give up smoking, but will the 'addictive' part of their personality find another outlet? Or is that another 'urban myth' and cod-pschology?

If - just using my friend as an example (who I still can't bring myself to speak to btw), he decided of his own volition to take steps to trace his child and perhaps agreed some sort of settlement and also made it clear that he was there for him/her and willing to answer any questions he/ she might have, has he actually 'changed' or will he still have (to put it bluntly) minimal willpower when it comes to keeping his flies zipped and be incapable of shouldering any blame if he was 'seduced'? Has his self-control increased, or his respect for women increased?

To my mind, nobody can change completely - but what they can do is look back on their lives honestly and identify areas where they do have weaknesses; be aware of them at all times and with the help of God and their genuine friends, develop strategies to mitigate the possibly effects. For example, someone who knows they are prone to getting drunk and acting like an idiot (not this particular friend!) could choose to socialise with friends who would encourage him to meet them away from bars and wild parties and gently remind him when they think he's had enough - not put temptation in his way. Likewise, someone who knows they are prone to falling into bed with any woman who makes herself available might acknowledge he has a problem and nip any contact with these types in the bud.

In one way, this is 'changing' - but I still think it is important not just to also want to make practical amends for the harm they have caused, but also to develop self-awareness to avoid just repeating tha behaviour over and over again.

I'm definitely not saying here that these good friends are 'changing' the person, or even helping him to change, but they do have a role as true friends.

:confused: For now, I am not going to make contact again for at least a week and just see how I feel when I've calmed down a bit - and these posts have all been helpful too. Forgiveness is between him and God. I suspect I will eventually bump into him again sooner or later, but I need to clear my head right now and think about what message I am giving him if I resume contact.

PS - Della, you mentioned Catholic Counsellors: I never knew they existed. Many thanks :)


#18

I pray that we can change our spots. I feel I am a terrible person. I have hurt many people. I pray the rosary, am I praying wrong. I find myself backsliding often. I point my finger at others for some reason. I pray that once I get to the bottom of how and why this behavior started I will not have pushed too many I love away that I may still have a rewarding life. This bad fruit has to have its roots somewhere, we can not be inherantly bad.... can we?


#19

[quote="Rose71, post:1, topic:225564"]
A Tuesday Night Debate:D

Can a leopard change his spots?

Is putting forward the suggesion that a person with a bad past can never really change being pragmatic or profoundly un-Christian?

:confused:I've just been thinking about this because of a very dear friend of mine has just confided something about his past to me that has shocked me to the core! What he did was absolutely awful (trust me on this!) and I just can't square it up with the decent, considerate and loving (in a brotherly sense ) man that I know (or thought I knew)

Part of me can see he is living in torment by his actions and punishing himself, so he deserves compassion. Part thinks 'what a rat!' and that while I should and will continue to pray for him, actually continuing the friendship is tantamount to condoning what he's done and if he is basically flawed and weak, he will just end up hurting me.

Also, the 2 real classic examples of de-spotting leopards, St. Paul and St. Augustine, seem to be men who, once spot-free, so to speak, took the toughest stance on anyone vaguely spotty:) I have to say, I see the same tendencies from some posters on here:p

:D I'd love to hear your views!

[/quote]

I actually thought about St. Paul before I finished reading your post!

Is he sorry for what he did? Is he continuing to do it? I can't tell from your post if he is punishing himself by continuing to do the action, or that he's reaping what he has sown.

Only you know if continuing your friendship with him is going to be harmful to you in the long-run. I hope you do find answers and make the best possible decision.


#20

[quote="Rose71, post:5, topic:225564"]
Until he told me what he did, I valued his friendship deeply - but now I am finding it hard to believe I ever knew him at all.

[/quote]

I think this is why the seal of confession was invented. There aren't many of us who can handle being confessors.

I know a priest who, before he heard his first confession, prayed for the grace to forget what he heard in the confessional, so he would look at no one differently because they had trusted him with their most difficult secrets. Maybe you can ask St. John Vianney to help you with this.


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