New Wine, New Skin. A Key to Sustaining Personal Change.

I never liked physics when I was in high school. Slopes and friction just weren’t my thing. I had an incredibly intelligent teacher but I just didn’t grasp a lot of what he was trying to impart. However, I have learned this:

Billiard balls can be used to demonstrate Newton's First Law of Motion, or Law of Inertia. They can also be used to motivate people, but that's not recommended. 

Billiard balls can be used to demonstrate Newton's First Law of Motion, or Law of Inertia. They can also be used to motivate people, but that's not recommended. 

People are a lot like Newton’s First Law of Motion. The law, simply stated is, “a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced (unequal) force”. Most people are not in motion. They’re stagnant, unchanging, or declining unless acted upon by a force. And, most likely and unfortunately, the force needs to be traumatic!

I’m no different than the average Joe. I need a force, sometimes a blunt force, to move me out from where I am to where I need to be. Sometimes the push is a spiritual one, at other times it’s physical – like I ate too many donuts, my paunch is back and I can’t see my toes! But no matter what, I’ve learned that a force, push or pressure always precedes change. I know this from experience.

I grew up in a 100% Italian home. Although my last name betrays this fact, it’s true, I’m 100% Italian. I’ll explain someday why my surname doesn’t end with a vowel or sound like “lasagna”, for now, my upbringing sets the stage for my “blunt force trauma” experience.

Being Italian, not only did we talk with our hands, but just about every conversation was also spoken at an elevated decibel level. As I progressed through life people would ask me why I was talking so loudly. I realized that my family environment had calibrated my volume. I had to tone it down. Strong emotions also accompanied my loudness. Temperament aside, I didn’t grow up in a very emotionally healthy setting. Emotions always ran high and it was actually acceptable. Not so today for two reasons. 1. People of lesser emotional vigor tend to think I'm crazy, not good! 2. It set me up for a rollercoaster ride in life. I’m not negating emotions, just the opposite; I’m striving for emotional health!

Most of us don’t change passively; we stay right where we’re planted. We’re stonewalled by fear, failure, denial or ignorance. This is when a little pressure needs to be applied to unbolt us from our moorings. My favorite comedian, Brian Regan, has an entire monologue on pressure. As he so eloquently states, pressure is just another word for, you guessed it, PAIN! And that’s exactly what I experienced. A series of fortunate events shook me to my core causing me to reevaluate my life, emotions and actions in exchange for a healthier me. Here’s where my analogy of new wine comes in.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is speaking about why he and his disciples weren’t fasting like the religious leaders of the day. He likens himself to new wine that doesn’t work within old wineskins. For many reasons that I won’t address here, new wine is literally incompatible with the old, stretched wineskins and will result in the bursting of the skins and the loss of the wine. But I’m not talking about the fruit of the vine, nor was he.

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.
— Gospel of Matthew 9:17

Here’s my comparison. When we change, we become new wine and we don’t fit into the old skins we came from. Just like wine, we have to find a place to stretch, to fit and to become all that the new promises for us. Schedules might have to shift, conversations might need to change, words, even people we associate with might need to be adjusted. All of this is necessary, even though it might not seem so. With a new you comes the need for a newskin. And by skin I mean your environment, that which you fit into. I know people who changed dramatically and had to leave their job because it just wasn’t complimentary to their new wine”. In order to sustain positive change, you'll have to adjust your environment.

However, this atmospheric change can be disruptive not only for you but for many of those around you. They won't want you to change! They’re used to the old wine! It was familiar, expected and predictable. New wine, a wine that you've never tasted, can be just the opposite. We're reluctant to sip because we just don't know what we’re getting. We either end up with delight or a full bottle of nastiness. We’re creatures of habit. We don’t like change, but sometimes its absolutely essential to positive growth.

I know there’s a huge argument among wine connoisseurs about whether old or new wine is better. That’s where this analogy looses some gloss. Jesus is clearly stating, as am I, our new wine” is supposed to be an improvement over the old. No doubt about it.

I love the way the grass and sand seem to move together in this photo. It's a lot like us. When change is needed, we need to move with it, to become a better "me". Resistance only brings needed pressure - i.e. PAIN! Or, much like the grass, we'll just stay were we are.

So, when change does come take a survey of your current skin - the atmosphere you're in - does it fit your new wine? Does it accommodate and compliment the changes you’re making? You might need to make external changes slowly.* In some cases, you may need to seek permission, like from your boss, to make these adjustments. You may even get some push back. But don’t be discouraged. Keep finding ways to make the changes that need to be made, for your health and the health of those around you.

Expect some people to want the old wine back, especially if the change you've made is for the better and it’s in the opposite direction they’re headed in! For odd reasons some people don't like to rejoice with the progress others make and the freedom they find. Call it envy or ego I’m not sure. Maybe it reveals to them where they've failed or arrive short? Again, I’m not sure. Anyway, you'll get some who’ll want to pull you back. At times you might even be provoked to act the way you used to. That’s never fun. And, if you show just a slight bit of your "old wine" you'll get lambasted for not changing at all!

So, keep this in mind, people do change but only when acted upon by a force! How strong will that force need to be for you to change? And, remember, you’re still wine, just transformed! You don’t become super human, just improved a bit.

*Just a word of caution before you get too far ahead. I’m not saying that a new you brings the freedom to leave your spouse or children or commitments so you can find a new space to grow. WRONG! Sometimes the changes that come are so we’ll properly fit into the skin we currently have – we may be so dysfunctional that the change is for the current skin to fit more appropriately