Stop Making the Same Mistakes – An Expert Talks About Why We Struggle to Change

Bill Lokey

Do you feel like you’re repeating a pattern over and over in your life that you can’t seem to change or you feel stuck in? For instance, maybe you keep getting into the same kind of unhealthy relationships (or avoid relationships), you repeatedly say something you regret when you get angry, you rarely finish things that you begin, you lose confidence in yourself each time you find it, the jobs you take are unfulfilling, sabotaging your own success becomes the norm, etc. Whatever it is, at times it seems overwhelming and impossible to change. In these situations the problem is often that we have come to prefer the familiar over the unfamiliar. In other words, we exchange what we desperately need, for the secure feeling of being in control. Just like Adam and Eve, deep down you and I prefer independence, with its loneliness, over the love and fulfillment of absolute dependence on God. The battle to stop an unhealthy pattern then is more of an internal one than external. The battle with myself often seems irrational and fierce. How can I be defeated … so I actually win?

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Once upon a time there was an Indian tribe where the chief and his wife had a child. When the child was still a toddler another tribe came and attacked the village and after defeating them they took the chief’s child with them as his parents cried in horror. As the years passed in his new village the child dreamed often of a scene … a scene of a village that he watched gradually disappear as he rode on the back of a horse. Also in his dream he saw the faces of a man and woman as they cried reaching out for him. Since he had no memory of anything like this in his childhood he pondered the meaning of the dream as he grew older wondering if it was a vision of how he would die. As he continued to grow into a young man so grew his strength along with his anger. He found there was an emptiness inside and a longing for something that he did not understand; almost like a longing for home. This became restlessness that fueled his anger and his growth as a warrior and hunter. His name became known as “Lost Warrior.”

One day, when he was in his late 20s, Lost Warrior and some friends were out hunting for the “Great Antler,” a very large deer with an impressive rack of antlers that had been seen from time to time only by the most skillful of hunters, but never killed. Near the end of the third day of hunting they came upon the “Great Antler” grazing in a field near the edge of the woods. The hunters began creeping toward the deer but when it saw them it bolted toward the woods, and faster than anyone could imagine Lost Warrior was running close behind. As the other men slowed with fatigue it seemed Lost Warrior’s pace grew faster and faster. It was almost as if all those years of anger and all those dreams of yearning were drawing him closer to his prey.

*Photo by USFWS, Creative Commons

Suddenly as he was almost ready to pounce on the deer, “Bam” he was hit from the side with tremendous force and he fell to the ground. He scrambled to his feet but ten warriors from another tribe jumped on him and threw him to the ground. He began to use every trick and everything he had learned in battle to shake them loose. He grabbed handfuls of dirt and threw them into the eyes of two of the men, he kicked others, and he scratched and he bit and he hit until they overpowered him and threw him to the ground again. Then they tied his hands behind his back and tied his legs to his hands. He thought, “I cannot go this way!” “I vowed to never be captured,” and he screamed at the top of his lungs while his entire body shook but he was too exhausted to resist anymore. He had been overcome.

They tied him to a horse and began to travel for quite some time. As he traveled bruised and bleeding he wondered if this was what his dreams were about. Would this be the end of his life? Would he die before he ever felt the longing inside resolved? Just as he began to drift off to sleep he heard the sound of children and people in the distance. He looked up and shook his head. Was he dreaming or was he awake? For what he was looking at was the very scene in his dreams. It was the same path, the same village with the same hills as the backdrop. The caravan came to stop at a certain tent and he was brought down from the horse. Just then an elderly woman and man emerged and when they looked at Lost Warrior he recognized their eyes. In amazement he realized they were the couple in his dreams: suddenly and unexpectedly he began to cry and cry as he rested his head on the shoulder of his mother and father. He was home.

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This story is about you and me when we struggle with an important, painful change or transition. Ask yourself what the “payoff” is for not changing. Fear often clouds our thinking into trying the same things over and over. Usually it takes the failure of all we know to ease great pain, before clarity comes. Loss of what is familiar, even against our will, brings us to surrender … surrender to a God who wants to give us more than we can ask or dream. Step into your fear and take one step at a time in integrity while clumsily trusting God, which is faith; faith that is leading you in a great life story toward home.

Bill Lokey

Bill Lokey