Can People Change?

This is an age old question, with many examples of conventional wisdom on both sides of the debate. Can people change? Or are facets of their personality fixed forever?

On one hand, cautionary tales abound. If your spouse cheats on you, they will do so again in the future. Addicts will use again. A convicted criminal will re-offend. A liar will continue to lie. Because people don’t change.

Conversely, stories of redemption are some of the most powerful stories of all. Everyone deserves a second chance, as the saying goes. Someone who learns from a mistake and takes steps to correct it is a hero.

How you view this issue may influence how you view the criminal justice system. Is it about punishment for doing wrong, or a chance to redeem yourself as a member of society? Does someone who serves out a prison sentence deserve the benefit of the doubt? In addition, does it matter what the offense was?

If you think it is possible for a person to change, how can any improvement be shown? In other words, at what point do we accept that a lesson has been learned, or that someone is truly remorseful?

Furthermore, what about change for the worse? Someone who has previously been kind and generous and thoughtful can do something selfish or mean. At what point does it become a change in personality? Is a nice person always nice, even if they do some things that are definitely not nice?

Usually, change is the one fixture in our lives. As we age, our body goes through physical changes: we get grey hairs, wrinkles around the eyes, gain some weight. But does our personality go through similar changes? Or do we have some traits that remain constant?

Related questions: What is time? What is necessary to change your mind? How have we changed? How have you changed?