Book Review: How People Change

“Each morning that greets me is full of hope
Not because I am successful at what I am doing,
Or because the people near me appreciate me,
Or because circumstances are easy,
But because God is, and he is my Father.
To look at the morning any other way
Is to believe a lie.
To live in hope is to live in truth;
To live in truth is to bring him glory;
To bring God glory in my daily living
Is the highest form of worship.”
-How People Change

Most of us want to change. We usually have a whole list of things we wish we did better, problems we wish we responded to differently, spiritual fruits we wish we’d cultivated earlier. So if we truly want change, why is it so hard to achieve? In their book How People Change, Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp tackle this difficult question and show us why.

Throughout the book, the authors refer to four main stages of change.

  1. Heat. Our Heat is the circumstances and problems we face in our life.
  2. Thorns. The Thorns are the way our sinful flesh responds to the Heat, like anger or selfishness.
  3. Cross. The Cross points back to Christ’s redemptive love on the cross, and the Holy Spirit’s changing presence in our lives.
  4. Fruit. Fruit comes from when we choose to let God’s work in our life change the way we respond to Heat.

According to Lane and Tripp, the primary reason it is difficult for us to change is that we focus on our symptoms and bad behavior instead of our heart attitude. It can be easy to pinpoint the problems in our lives, but hard to know how to resolve them. Because we aren’t perfect, we can’t merely change our responses to Heat. Matthew 12:34 says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” What is in our heart will come out. Unless we change our hearts, our actions will never completely change. Here are a couple of practical examples.

One person has an anger problem. He knows anger is wrong and wants to change. When he experiences Heat, he tries to focus on not letting his anger show. When someone cuts him off on the road, he tries to remember not to curse. He’s constantly battling his urges and merely ends up frustrated with his inability to control his responses.

Another person is constantly battling to keep comfort from becoming an idol. She spends her drive home from work in the evenings looking forward to relaxing. When she gets home, she’s met at the door by a sibling that needs help with homework. As she comes through the kitchen, her mom asks her to help with supper. She knows that she shouldn’t respond with frustration and negativity, but she wants nothing more than to finally sit down and do what she wants to do. Surely she deserves that after working all day.

We’ll never be able to completely change the way we respond until we change our hearts. In the authors’ words, “Beneath the battle for behavior is another, more fundamental battle – the battle for the thoughts and motives of the heart.”

How People Change gives us practical steps to change our hearts’ desires to be one with Christ’s. Lane and Tripp make it sound not only possible, but also exciting. As we draw closer to God, our hearts align with His. When our hearts align with His, our actions follow.

Although I really, really want to love self help and religious books, I have a hard time sticking to them. As much as I love this book, it was a little difficult to keep reading for the first half; however, it was absolutely worth my time. How People Change is both well-researched and well-written. I will definitely be looking into the authors’ other books, including at least one other that they write together.

Initially, I was confused about the book’s title. Only after I finished reading did I understand why the first two thirds were included – it felt like the subject was much broader than the title indicated. The content definitely all comes together at the end, it just took me a while to understand how. I still wonder if the title and direction of the book really covers all the contents and subject matter. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments if you read it.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading How People Change. The part I identified with the most was actually not about change, but about drawing closer to God. It’s a perfect resource for anyone who wants to change, but doesn’t know where to start. It would be an great option for a small group or Bible study – I wanted to go find someone to debate the contents with me as soon as I finished.

 

 

Rhonda Mast Rhonda Mast has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. That may be why she knows the proper fencing stance, spends countless hours on YouTube watching videos on tatting and cranberry harvesting techniques, completely covers one wall of her room with her bookshelves, understands 19th century boxing cant, reads the dictionary, knows the proper way to curtsy and tie a cravat, and has invested a small fortune in candle making supplies. It’s also why you should never ask her why algebra and ancient literature are practical classes for high schoolers. She routinely distributes vitamins, fashion advice, natural beauty products, and math tutoring to her seven siblings. She’s developed a love for adoption, foster care, and a whole host of little boys in Mexico, although she has a number of health issues that slow her down more than she likes. She is learning blind trust in God and complete surrender to His will.

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