Allow me to begin with a brief but poignant anecdote. When I was in high school, I was not particularly brilliant in gym class. I loved to run, but I had almost no upper body strength, no dexterity, and a potentially a slightly-below-average hand-eye coordination. That meant, when it came to sports, I was usually picked among the last.
As usual, there was a part in the year where we played football. Now, the extent of my knowledge regarding this sport is that one of the positions was a quarterback, and that two separate teams tried to throw the weird-shaped ball between the fork-shaped goal for a touch-down. I don’t know what it was about football in particular that made me curious–maybe it was my lack of knowledge on the subject, maybe it was simply the shape of the ball–but I wanted to learn.
We lived in an apartment complex at the time, and didn’t spend a lot of time outside, but my dad still got me a football and taught me what he knew about holding it, throwing it, catching it… the whole nine. Of course, it wasn’t like I became an instant prodigy, but I learned how to do it.
The unfortunate part? I never got to use what I learned. At that point in the school year, I’d already been pegged as nonathletic (true, however much it hurt), and no one wanted to risk me fumbling it just for the opportunity to practice or to show off what little I now knew how to do.
This brings me to my point. There are plenty of instances in our lives where we recognize a fault for what it is, and, wishing to improve ourselves, take it upon us to try to correct that fault. Like with sports, however, we don’t simply get better in a day. We don’t spend an hour on ourselves and then immediately become some perfect specimen for physical and mental health. The transition period is difficult. More so because it takes time.
When dealing with bad habits–I’m talking the bigger stuff, like laying blame, or making other people do things you’d rather not do, etc.–these are things that are not easily gotten rid of. It is made even more difficult when people aren’t mindful of that transition period, and assume immediately that slow change means no change at all. By not giving people the opportunity to prove themselves, it discourages them from even trying.
Gym class, of course, is a very low-stakes example. Best case scenario, my classmates had given me that opportunity to shine, I would have practiced even more to improve, and became a football player who could hold her own on the field. But I never would have left a life of writing to play sports. A pen fits better in my hand than any football ever could.
It’s not the low stakes of the example that matters, but the implications that follow it. People are not perfect. Acknowledging any faults you have, knowing that ridding yourself of them is your responsibility, is essential in shifting your life for the better. I know from personal experience that, if you know a flaw exists, it is possible to fix it, no matter how young or old you are. But it’s not easy to change old habits, and in those low moments when it seems impossible rather than just hard, the presumptions of other people can make or break any effort to rid yourself of those habits.
So it’s important to realize, as someone who is inevitably part of others’ support systems, that you can’t just assume someone isn’t trying. There’s a chance that you just can’t see it. Give them the metaphorical ball on occasion, and see how far they can take it.