“I think we have all learned by the middle of life that people do not change easily. We try to change others, we try to change ourselves, we try to improve situations by better communication methods, various coercive means and sincere prayer, but, dang it, most of us are just like we used to be. Only the disguise and the denial get better. It seems we don”t meet that many transformed people. What a disappointment.

“My hope, as I get older, is that I hurt people a little less. My hope is that I can at least see what I am doing a little better — and more easily apologize for my mistakes. My hope is that I can accept people and situations as they really are. In these ways I have changed. But I must painfully admit that I am in most ways the same person that I was as a 17-year-old-boy. The same underlying patterns of arrogance, denial, deceit, rash judgment, lust and laziness are still with me. Now I just know how to describe them better for NCR articles. All of my years of education, all of my Franciscan training, all of my attempts at prayer, all of my wonderful loves and my terrible mistakes — you would think I would be different by now. The truth is that I am radically different. The truth is that I am not different at all. And both of those are true at the same time.

“In my attempt to explain this ultimate paradox (and it is), let me start by saying that I do not think all the expert communication skills in the world, all the explanations of very helpful psychology, will ever make us completely loving or lovable people. One speaker said recently, to my initial shock, that if we actually communicated better we would probably love one another less. We would know the mixed motives, the critical and judgmental thoughts that are floating through one another”s minds, and would never be able to fully trust or entrust ourselves to anybody. Instant mental telepathy would be destructive of human relationships. What if there were a neon sign on your head broadcasting what you are actually thinking moment by moment? Most relationships would not even get off the ground. Thus Jesus, the consummate realist, does not really teach communication skills, although I am all for them myself. He just counsels a kind of larger trusting, a winning patience, a brutal honesty, a radical letting go of expectations that finally gets called “love.” Better communication will aid us. Love alone will save us.

“The great transformation that has gradually taken place in me — almost entirely beyond my own efforts — is that my Great Self has changed: at least in my awareness of it. “I live no longer not I,” as Paul would say (Galatians 2:20). The who is now different, which changes absolutely everything at the deepest level. The what and the why and the how, my personality as it were, are still a lot the same.

“I still prefer to do things that I am competent at, I still do things for at least partial self-interest, I still do things with the same inner energy of an Enneagram One. The only difference is that I have another center of gravity now. You might say that I am still trapped in personality, but utterly freed by essence.”

Richard Rohr, “Giving Up Control in Life’s Second Half” NCR, 2002