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Personality is an automatic pilot that guides us through life. To attempt to change it, one must learn the complex components of the system and modify their arrangement — no small challenge.

BE PATIENT. Peter's counsel to "add to your temperance patience" is almost always good advice (2 Peter 1:6). In personality adjustment, we should give ourselves time. In a day of instant gratification, people become easily discouraged, but most of us did not get the way we are overnight and we will not change overnight. Personality improvement is a process, not the flip of a switch; a journey, not a sprint. It is also important that we not beat ourselves up when we make mistakes. A step backward does not mean that we are starting all over. We can take encouragement from the distance we have already covered.

Creating loving relationships, for instance, can be a lifetime process. Don't get discouraged when your relationship isn't a "10" overnight. It may take a month, six months, even a year or more before lasting change is seen and positive habits are formed Controlling anger is not done all at once, either. A better barometer is to see if the flare-ups are less frequent and less in-tense.
When James A. Garfield was president of Hiram College, a father came to enroll his son. He asked for a shorter curriculum than the regular one. The boy can never take all that in, " complained the father. "He wants to get through quicker. Can you arrange it for him?" The future president said, "Oh, yes. He can take a short course; it all depends on what you want to make of him. When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but He takes only two months to make a squash." Many want instant spirituality—like instant coffee or high-speed internet but it doesn't come that way. There are no short courses. It simply takes time to grow strong, vibrant faith (cf. Hebrews 5:12-14).

Max Beerbohm wrote a story entitled "The Happy Hypocrite" about a character whose face personified evil. The man was faced with a dilemma: the woman he loved refused to marry him because of his frightening looks. To solve the problem, he put on a mask with a kind face. She married him despite the face under the mask. He proved to be an attentive, unselfish husband. Years later, an enemy tore off the mask before her eyes. Instead of a cruel face, though, he had become what he had lived for many years. Kindness now radiated from his features! The Bible tells us that we are being changed into Christ's image (2 Corinthians 3:18) from the "ugly" sinner we used to be. Someday we will look like Him in whom we believe (1 John 3:2).

KEEP THE BENEFITS FOREFRONT. If you are primarily "conscientious," do you work so much that you have no social life? At work, do you get so bogged down in the details that you never finish a project or are never satisfied with the results? Is your marriage in trouble because you can't relax and stop worrying or let people do things their own way? Then keep reminding yourself of why you are changing and how much better life will be when you do.

CELEBRATE YOUR IMPROVEMENTS. Reward yourself for making it a day, a week, or a month toward your goal. Jesus complimented His disciples on small things when they were yet immature (John 1:47; Luke 10:38-42). Set small goals on the way to the b10ig goal and celebrate each one along the way. It might be treating yourself to a meal, buying a magazine or a book you've wanted, or purchasing a new tie or dress to wear on Sunday.

RELY ON GOD'S HELP (Proverbs 16:9). Luke adds the detail that the transfiguration happened while Jesus was praying (Luke 9:29). We often hear, "prayer changes things." This is true:

•Hannah prayed and she became a mother (1 Samuel 1:10-28).
•Hezekiah prayed and he lived fifteen additional years (2 Kings 20:1-11).
•Elijah prayed and rain stopped; he prayed again rain came (James 5:17-19).

It is also true that "prayer changes us!" We are "God's workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10). We were born with some traits of personality, but we can change them when we are "born again" (John 3:3, 5). God will give us a "new heart" (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 11:19; 18:31; 36:26). Astronomers tell us that dead, cold matter falls from all corners of the solar system into the sun, drawn by its tremendous magnetism from the farthest reaches of space. Plunging into that great reservoir of fire, the coldest matter glows again with fervent heat and dazzling light.' So you and I, dead, cold, dull, opaque, heavy souls, are drawn by the matchless magnetism of the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) into oneness with Christ.

LOOK TO JESUS, THE PERFECT EXAMPLE (2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 12:2). A house painter was at work atop a tall ladder that leaned against a second-story gable. A small boy playing in the yard discovered the ladder, and as is natural for small boys, began to climb. When his mother checked on him, she was shocked to find he was more than half way up the ladder! As she stifled a scream of panic, the painter looked down, saw the child, and instantly perceived the danger. Signaling the mother to be silent, he calmly said to the boy, "Look up, sonny, look up here to me, and keep climbing." Rung by rung, he coaxed the child ever higher: "Come on now, keep looking up, keep coming." At last, the child safe in his arms, he carried him back down.

Each of us is somewhere on a "ladder to heaven" (cf. Genesis 28:12). If we look down, we may lose our bearings. God is saying, "Look up to me; keep climbing, and you will never be undone by what is down there."

Let's look up to where our safety lies; let's look up and keep climbing to "the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2).

Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Volume 10/March 2005
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