By Kathryn James

Guest editorialist


As a psychotherapist, I am accustomed to uncomfortable sessions with clients. However, this past week presented a particularly intense one. They are a young couple who have been together for about nine years and have an 8-year-old daughter. Needless to say, they are in big time trouble. In fact, I will be surprised if they stay together, and I hope that I am wrong.

During the session, the man began to rant about his partner’s weight and truly believed that if she were to lose weight then their lack of intimacy issues would be solved. She sat next to him with tears streaming down her face, sobbing quietly as he obliviously continued.

Maintaining my composure and trying to remain professionally objective, I informed him that her losing weight will not solve their relationship problems – end of story. After the session ended and at a loss for words, which I rarely get in the therapy rooms, I called my brother for his input as a married man. We discussed it, and I concluded how I plan to conduct my next session with them.

My brother then said something that struck the crux of the problem: “No man can ever call himself a man until he looks in the mirror and says ‘What do I do to change?’ If they are unable to do that individually, then their relationship problems will not get solved. Period.” I agreed, thanked him and said good night.

Due to my profession almost on a weekly basis, I am asked by clients, friends and people I do not even know “How do I change?” Well, I could take you through the psychobabble of skills, techniques, tools, theories, cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy – the list goes on and on.

While all of those are good and effective, I have concluded after my short time of having a front seat watching people evolve that there is one, single differentiating factor between those who truly change and those who do not. That one factor is humility. Pure and not-so-simple humility.

Humility is a word Americans say they like and accept but really do not. Just look around you for the truth is right in front of you. I once heard a religious leader say “humility brings you closer to God,” and I believe his sentiment. Ultimately, humility causes you to put down the pointing fingers, the blame, the victimizing, the excuses, and leads you to get up and go look at yourself eye-to-eye in the mirror.

Then ask yourself: “What is my part? What will I own? What will I do to change? And at what lengths am I willing to go?” Looking at who is standing before you in that powerful glass is taking a fearless, personal responsibility and accountability to admit your strengths, your faults in order to work on them to create eternal change within.

This honest evaluation needs not be an once in a while occurrence, an every five year crisis, nor a New Year’s Resolution, but a 365 day per year ritual. In the end, you contribute to improve the imperfect world by doing this.

After all, Mahatma Gandhi did say “Become the change you wish to see in the world.”

So now I will hold up a mirror, turn it to you, and boldly ask: “What do you see?”

Are you man enough or woman enough to look?

Lovingly dedicated to my brother, Cal James Jr.,  – a true man who looks in the mirror everyday.

James is a guest editorialist from San Francisco.