At the first of our mandatory adoption training classes this past weekend, the instructor asked the innocent question of, "Do you think people are capable of change?" Out of 15 people, 9 people raised their hands, 2 (including me) gave the iffy hand gesture, and 4 did not. One was my husband. She immediately zeroed in on him and demanded to know why he didn't believe people were capable of change. Now, there is a case to be made that this was a matter of definitions and semantics, but basically he said, People don't change. They can grow and learn, but who you are as a person, your personality and your past, do not change. She did NOT like this answer and drilled him a bit before asking, "Does anyone else think people can't change?" Those other three hands were nowhere to be seen. Whether this will hurt our chances of adopting will have to be seen, but let's dig into this a bit shall we...
Firstly, we have to define change. For the purposes of our foster care/adoption class, change was supposed to mean that someone can quit being an abuser and get their children back from the system. Can people stop abusing their children? Of course. So by that definition people are capable of change. On the other hand, if we are talking about people changing personalities or becoming completely different people, I don't think they are. There are people out there that have terrible senses of humor. They can read joke books, watch comedians, and go to improv shows, but none of that is going to make them into a comedian if they don't have an innate sense of humor and comedic timing. An angry person may learn how to control their anger and channel it in more constructive ways, but that doesn't mean they stopped being angry. For me (and for my husband) when someone talks about change, what I think they actually mean is growth.
Now, you know there is a religious angle to all of this right? Otherwise why I am posting it here? So after this slight verbal debacle, I am talking to my mother on the phone and she informs me that she doesn't think people can change themselves....only God can do that! And then she informs me that she is a completely different person than she was before she was a Christian.
I was young when my mother became a Christian, and sure she made a lot of big changes in her life, but she did not become a whole different person. My mother was a teenage runaway and fought with her parents constantly. She once punched her hand through a plate glass window because she was mad at my dad. After she became a Christian, she continued to have anger issues. My home was one full of screaming, yelling, and physical abuse. Sure, she was "spanking" because God says not to spare the rod, but looking back I see it for what it was. An overwhelmed mom who had a very short fuse. When she became a Christian, she didn't become another person. God didn't change her. Where there changes? Sure. Would I define them as growth? Definitely. Did she become another person who never struggled with her life pre-Christiandom? Nope.
I have relatives who can't stand my mother. They didn't like her before she was a Christian, they couldn't stand her after she become a hardcore Christian, and now that she has mellowed out a bit, they still can't stand her. Why? Because she is still the same person. A bit selfish, a know-it-all, doesn't have a lot of regard for other people's opinions or ideas. It isn't the Christian thing they don't like. It is her. And it is because she is still the same person. I know that there was a lot of things that did change, but not enough to say that it was some miraculous change from God.
The same goes for when we are adopting. No amount of good parenting is going to erase our kids trauma. No matter how hard they try, the effects of abuse, neglect, and loss will follow them for the rest of their lives. Religion will not fix or erase that. At best, it will help with coping. They can definitely grow, learn to deal with their anger or pain in constructive ways, but those things don't just magically go away no matter how much you want them to.
I watch Supernanny a lot and many of the parents don't handle discipline well. Supernanny teaches the parents different more effective techniques to get the desired behavior. Do I think those parents don't occasionally resort to their old methods of discipline? Probably. Because they aren't new people, they just learned something new and grew to become better parents as a result. I often tell people that I have changed a lot in the past decade and a half. What I should say though is that I have grown a lot, because I am still me. I am still an uber organized perfectionist who has trouble relaxing and beats herself up for not being more disciplines even though I am super disciplined. I am still controlling, I have just learned what situations are and aren't in my control and handle them accordingly. Sometimes I still get stressed about it.
And God doesn't have a damn thing to do with it.
Correction: Some of my growth has been the result of God, or more specifically, the lack thereof. Yet, I am still at my core, still me. With or without God, I have not morphed into a new person. I hope this is what my friends and family remember as I begin to tell them about my deconversion.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.