How Do You Change Your Life?

There was a nasty guy I saw at Placer High School named Steve Pitman. He was a bully. I kept my distance. He scared me.

A couple of years after I left high school, I ran into him again and he was the nicest guy in the world. I think he was married with kids. He was grinning and friendly. What had changed him? He gave his life to Jesus Christ and that transformed him. He was just like that scene out of The Apostle where the Robert Duvall preacher character changes an angry man over the course of a couple of minutes.

Out tango dancing one evening circa 1997, I ran into Mr. Duvall and tried to tell him how much I loved that movie but he wasn’t interested in hearing about it. I’ve never met a celebrity who enjoyed being told how much you loved their work.

Anyway, I grew up a Christian and I did see a few lives transformed by their Christianity.

At age 27, I converted to Judaism. I can’t recall many people whose characters were transformed by their practice of Judaism. If they were angry and miserable and dishonest before becoming Orthodox, they were still angry, miserable and dishonest after their change. From my experience, knowing that someone kept kosher and prayed three times a day told me nothing about whether or not they were a decent human being. It did signify, however, that they had a strong in-group identity. I think that’s the major change I’ve noticed when Jews become observant — they increase their in-group identity and consequently develop suspicion and fear of out-groups.

Overall, the only process that I have seen change people’s character for the better is the 12 Steps.

I was in psycho-therapy for 10 years. It undoubtedly did me good, but it didn’t transform me. It didn’t shift my character dramatically. It didn’t shift my life dramatically. It didn’t make much progress with my narcissism. Working the 12 Steps, however, did start me in the right direction. I was able to let go of my ongoing resentments through working the Fourth Step and that significantly improved my happiness. I no longer went through life with a chip on my shoulder. I also was able to let go of most of my disabling fears by working the Fourth Step and that enabled me to become more positively visible.

I love 12 Step sayings such as if you want relief, work the tools, and if you want recovery, work the steps.

The 12 Steps prevent suicide, the 12 Traditions prevent homicide.

GOD = Good Orderly Direction.

Stay in your lane. Obey the speed limit. Be of service to other people.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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