A leopard can’t change his spots. Right? Sometimes we are persuaded to believe that who we are is set in stone. “I am who I am, and I can’t change,” is something many of us believe and tell ourselves. In modern therapy circles, it’s sometimes called self-acceptance.
Yet, for some who might be struggling with depression, or with something as simple as unlikable or limiting character traits, it’s a belief system that can make us feel helpless and unable to experience greater health or happiness. Or, this self-acceptance might simply limit us from experiences that could greatly bless us and others.
Countless books and websites inform us that we need to be more self-aware and committed to a reinvention of ourselves. And, some of us do take on the challenge to change aspects of our human character, especially if we do not feel fully satisfied and we come to recognize that specific changes might enable us to be more in charge of our lives.
Perhaps this whole idea of changing who we are – or are not – is difficult because we start and end with it being about changing our human character. We’re focused on ourselves, on our long-held beliefs about who we are, and on the world’s suggestion that “A leopard can’t …”
Once in a while, a story comes along about someone who went through profound character changes – a complete transformation – even when they weren’t looking for it. And in the process they sometimes glimpse something that was always true about themselves, although they didn’t know it yet. It’s these glimpses into what’s really true about us that always spark my interest.
Take the story of Pittsburgh detective, Jack Mook.
Mook saw himself as a man’s man, a no-nonsense, “say-it-like-it-is,” committed bachelor. Being a dad was far from his thinking. He was content with that picture of himself – he liked his life just as it was. He was not looking for any changes, and so did not immerse himself in self-awareness books about how to be a better guy.
In his spare time Mook taught boxing to at-risk youth in a gym located in a hard scrabble area of the city. And that is where he began, without realizing it, to slowly change. At the gym he bonded with two boys who were brothers. One day he noticed they had stopped coming. Finding one of them on the street, he asked what was wrong, and the answer launched Mook on a whole new journey. He discovered that their foster parent situation was entirely unsafe. Because he cared so deeply about the welfare of these boys, he took the needed legal steps to become their foster parent. Now for Mook that was a whole new life – he unexpectedly became a father overnight.
He was no longer living the independent bachelor life, but was responsible for two other lives. This meant he had to learn to cook and to help them with their homework. He was “rebranding” himself – and he loved it! “It’s the best thing I ever did in my life,” he said. Then he went one better – he adopted the boys. Soon after, he married a woman with two kids.
The transformation that Mook experienced was not because of a self-awareness course, but because he simply loved these two boys and this woman and her children more than he loved his previously accepted pattern of bachelorhood.
In an interview on the Meredith Viera Show, Mook attributed this transformation to a Divine influence in his life. He acknowledged that God blessed him with this plan – and he wasn’t even asking! Mook’s limited view of himself as a contented and unchangeable bachelor gave way to a larger sense of his spiritual, loving nature. He experienced new elements of his character that he had not realized were present.
This Divine influence is ever-present in our consciousness. And, it’s often in these moments of giving to others that we have the opportunity to learn the most about its presence and how it operates in changing the human character. We perceive a little more clearly who God is as Love, and what we are – the loved of Love. It’s not so much a change of character as it is a revealing of our true spiritual nature.
Jack Mook’s experience tells us that a leopard is more than just his spots. Letting love transform our lives, shows us that there is more to us than we think.
This article was published in the Vancouver Sun HERE