#21: Don’t change!

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost. (Luke 19:1-10)

Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest, psychotherapist, spiritual teacher and writer from India.

I was a neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. And everyone kept telling me to change. And everyone kept telling me how neurotic I was. And I resented them, and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but I just couldn’t bring myself to change, no matter how hard I tried.

What hurt the most was that my best friend also kept telling me how neurotic I was. He too kept insisting that I change. And I agreed with him too, though I couldn’t bring myself to resent him. And I felt so powerless and so trapped.

Then one day he said to me, “Don’t change. Stay as you are. It really doesn’t matter whether you change or not. I love you just as you are; I cannot help loving you.”

These words sounded like music to my ears: “Don’t change. Don’t change. Don’t change. I love you.”

And I relaxed. And I came alive. And, oh wondrous marvel, I changed. Ω

Reflect: When has someone loved you exactly as you are? What effect did this have? Or, imagine yourself as Zacchaeus. Imagine Jesus coming to you, and inviting himself into your home. What do you think? What do you feel? How will you respond?

#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020, quoting Anthony de Mello, S.J., The Song of the Bird, as quoted in Joan Chittister, Echoes of the Heart, Mulgrave, Vic: John Garrattt Publishing, 2011. Buy through your favourite bookseller.


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One thought on “#21: Don’t change!

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  1. It’s a wonderful paradox isn’t it. I think that some therapists have understood this too. Carl Rogers’ idea of unconditional acceptance comes to mind. And family therapists have used such strategies.


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