When most people hear the statement “you can’t change people,” what they actually hear is “you can’t CHANGE people.” What they ought to hear is “YOU can’t change people.”
People can change. There’s no doubt about that. We do it all the time. Think about all the differences between who you are today and who you were five or ten years ago.
When people change, however, they don’t change because of how brilliant we are at explaining the truth to them. When people change, it’s because they are at a place in their lives where they are ready to make different decisions. You might have been an instrumental influence in helping them see the light, but your assistance wouldn’t have mattered one bit unless they were mentally ready to receive what you had to say.
So when someone says “You can’t change people,” they mean “you’re not going to succeed at inspiring genuine and lasting transformation by worrying, stressing, quarreling, cajoling, and threatening them.” That doesn’t mean you should give up hope however. It just means you should stop placing hope in your ability to manipulate people.
You can change people, but only by giving them the tools they need to think for themselves. And once you’ve done that, change will be up to them. Once they change, assuming they ever get around to it, it won’t be because you made them change. It will be because you chose to be an ally in their own voluntary quest to become a better version of themselves.
People can change. Moreover, you can be a positive force in their lives before and during those changing times. But don’t wear yourself out by trying to micromanage other people’s spiritual journey.
You can CHANGE people, but YOU can’t change them.