Can Human Beings Change?
Just as everything in the universe changes, people can and do change also. Matter changes from solid to liquid to vapor. Traditionally, it was taught that there were only these three states of matter. Now, there are said to be five main states of matter. The other two are plasmas and Bose-Einstein condensates*. Who knows? Many more may someday be discovered. Just as it was once taught that there were only three states of matter, conventional wisdom says that people do not or cannot change. We hear this especially when someone has bad characteristics. We hear comments like: “Once a thief, always a thief.” and “Once a liar, always a liar.” We’ve heard these things all our lives. So when someone says that they have changed, turned over a new leaf, we often find it very hard to believe. But people do change. We are always evolving, physically as well as psychologically. You are not the same person you were 20 years ago – nobody is.
When you were a child, you behaved like a child and likely played with whatever toys were popular at the time. As a teen, you behaved like a teen and participated in whatever age specific activities were popular then also. This was a learning period. Often we learn through trial and error rather than simply doing as we are told. You may have tested the boundaries your parents and other authority figures set for you. Suppose during the time when you were 18 or 19 you went joy riding with a couple of your friends and the police pulled you over. You were initially arrested for car theft. This charge was subsequently reduced to unauthorized use of a vehicle. You plead guilty, paid a fine, and then went about your merry way never dreaming that this would ever affect your life.
Since that time, you kept your nose clean, became a responsible adult and raised a well adjusted, happy family. Now you’re 45. The company you work for down-sizes and you find yourself unemployed and in the job market. This job market is nothing like the one you entered 22 years ago. Almost every prospective employer requires you to consent to a background check and sometimes also a credit check. You are no longer the immature teen that threw caution to the wind. You are a mature, responsible adult, with a track record to prove it. Unfortunately, all the good things you have done since your teens do not matter to most employers. When your background check comes back showing that you were arrested for car theft, you are no longer considered for the job. You are seen as a criminal. In fact, even if the case had been dismissed, some employers would still hold it against you, believing that if you were arrested, the police had good reason; therefore you must have done SOMETHING wrong regardless of the case’s favorable disposition.
For many people, the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” does not apply when it comes to believing a person can change. But actions DO speak louder than words. Should every past infraction be treated as an indelible mark on one’s record, even when all evidence shows that the old behavior patterns have been abandoned? No, to react this way is unreasonable. Human beings do change. When we change internally, our change of heart will manifest externally and become evident in our actions. When actions speak louder than words, we should take note of it and react accordingly.