Newsletter 574 – Changing Personalities

old nun 1Several years ago somebody gave me a copy of a prayer by a 17th century nun. (You can find “old nun’s prayer” on the Internet). Here are some excerpts. Do they apply to anybody you know, maybe you?

“Lord, Keep my mind free from the endless recital of details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

 “I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

“Keep me reasonably sweet…a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.”

 I thought of this when the Wall Street Journal published an article ((April 22, 2014) on how our personalities change as we get older. It starts when we’re in our twenties and thirties. Bitter and complaining old people showed similar personality characteristics when they were young.

There are two sides to this according to research cited in the WSJ. Often we get worse and more ornery as we get older. But we also can get more pleasant. Some personality traits improve on their own, as we gain experience and broader perspectives. Overall, many people get more trusting, interested in others, open about feelings, pleasant to work with and less anxious—to list a few examples. And the improvements can be speeded along in people who learn to let go of the negative attitudes, including the belief that “This is the way I am so I won’t ever change.” That’s not true, as that old nun probably knew.

All of this can have great influence on leaders, coaches, counselors and others who work with people. Change for the better is slow and occurs in small steps. The Bible describes how the Holy Spirit moves the change along (Galatians 5:22-25) and so can the help of counselors, pastors, and others.

How do you react to this? How does it apply to your work or to you personally? Please leave a comment.

  1. Years ago, I was listening to Dr. Clyde Narromore on the radio, when he answered the question of why one gets ‘cranky’ when they get older. His answer was that one does not ‘get cranky’ when they get older, they just crystalize in what they already were.
    Today, Dr. Caroline Leaf says in her book “Switch On Your Brain” that you are not a victim of your biology, you can replace toxic thoughts with healthy ones and get your thought life under control. She says that with some hard work, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can ‘take every thought into captivity’ (II Corinthians 10:5) and ‘be transformed by the renewing of the mind’ (Romans 12:2) which will enable one to live a happier, healthier, more enjoyable life. This is the focus I choose with my clients at Next Step Life Coaching.

    • Elize
    • April 26th, 2014

    I so agree with the contents! However, as for the free will that God has blessed us with – also allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us and in us is a choice. One that we must exercize in love and with humility. It is evident that the prayer of the Nun is done from a seat of love, humility and respect instead of from a seat of fear or righteousnous. So much to learn from it.

  2. As we age we will perfect what we focus on. Christians ability to improve their outlook and personality is a direct reflection of their focus on growing in the likeness of Christ and willingness to allow God to transform them.

    • Ursula
    • April 28th, 2014

    Garry, this is so true. I watched my dad dying in his bitterness, so sad, heartbreaking. And in the same time I new that all what he needed it was just to open his heart and let enter the grace of God.

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