A few weeks ago, I came across a simple poem about self-discovery and making a change. In the poem, Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, Portia Nelson uses a simple poem to describe the process of creating change in herself. She describes becoming aware of something unhealthy in her life, and slowly learning to adjust. It reminds me how difficult change can be, and that change itself can feel uncomfortable, even painful. Read her poem and imagine something in your own life that you’re trying to change:
“I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I still don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. It isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there, I still fall in. It’s habit. It’s my fault. I know where I am. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down a different street.”
© 1977 Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery
Did you consider something you are trying to change in your own life? What chapter are you currently in? Change is difficult for us. It helps us process change by taking it in simple, achievable steps. I think we complicate it so that we can avoid change.
Often, the most profound learnings are the simplest. Consider how Jesus used parables to teach valuable lessons. In one of my favorite teaching about judging others, Jesus asks “Can a blind person lead a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? …why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” (Luke 6: 39-41).
Simplifying problems helps us understand the problem itself, and what we can do to make change.
Change doesn’t always require hitting rock bottom. Simply put, it does require self-discovery (awareness), and the value in changing needs to outweigh the difficulty of change itself.
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