Can a Tiger Change its Stripes?

May 19th, 2015/Katie Brauer /Blog


Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 5.44.34 PMI consider one of my greater qualities the ability I have to let things go, not take things personally, forgive, have compassion for where someone is on their path and move on. I also have a quality that drives my husband insane.

No matter how bad someone fucked me over, how much they stole, slandered, were dishonest or hurtful, I still stay connected to the possibility that they could have a break through, change and show up in a different way. Sure, when you look at collective data from their lives, the relationships they have burned, the jobs they have lost because of their behavior, the drama that seems to encapsulate their lives, the probability may not be high but the possibility still does exist.

I believe a tiger can change its stripes and anyone can change at any moment, if there is a desire to. I have seen it happen over and over again with friends, family members and students. I have experienced it myself. I have changed destructive habits, interrupted disastrous patterns and have grown exponentially, as a result I am happy on the inside, I have many rich friendships, and an overall sense of peace. To change it takes Responsibility, Ownership, Accountability and Action.

It is not easy by any means and at the end of the day no one is going to do the work for you. So the choice is up to the individual, and it IS a choice.

In any relationship there comes a time when one person’s or the others shit comes up and creates a rupture in the relationship, it is inevitable. Whether it is a best friend, a new friend, a boyfriend, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, a work colleague, a student. It is not a matter of if it will happen, bc that  is guaranteed, it is a matter of WHEN it will happen. When it does happen, and believe me it will, there is a juncture, a pause in the trajectory of the relationship, things can go one of two ways:

  1. Evolution = break down, followed by break through, growth and a deeper connection.
  2. Dissolution = breakdown, followed by blame and further apart.

This rupture is a place I find most interesting, a black hole of potency and potentiality and what lies before both people is a tremendous opportunity for growth, as individuals and together if there is a willingness to own what is yours, step out of blame and step up.

The greatest and most fulfilling relationships that I have in my life have been strengthened through the willingness and ability to navigate the big black hole. At times it is my shit  that leads to a rupture, other times it is their shit, regardless of whose shit it is suddenly both parties are called forth and there is a choice to make. Many friendships have ended for me at this juncture, which is ok too. Not everyone is up for growth and would prefer to live in the dramatized world of blame and being a victim. I for certain am up for growth, be it painful, uncomfortable, challenging, exhausting, in my life growth, trumps everything.

I recently encountered a juncture in a relationship, her shit got triggered (by a comment not even made by me) and the reaction was not pretty. The result was a fully grown woman screaming on street corner in a busy downtown area of Chicago, followed by a long list of insults directed at me and a closing statement of “you can pack your shit and get the fuck out”. It was all quite surreal and for the bystanders I am sure looked like something off the real housewives, but there was only one person screaming.  I left the apartment.

BIG BLACK HOLE. Opportunity, possibility, potentiality. I reached out, no response.

One of my best girlfriends and inspirations in my life Coby Cozlowski has a saying that I love. “A baby makes a mess and runs away. A leader, a good friend, a good husband, wife, brother, sister, work collegue, etc makes a mess and cleans it up”. Period

Like at any juncture, the opportunity to deepen the relationship exists through taking ownership of and recognizing the  impact of your actions. Or the alternate is to drown in blame and blame closes the door on growth. I choose growth. I am  take ownership when I fuck up, when I make a mess and believe me, I have made some big ones. One that even inspired my TED X talk.

I am writing this on the train from Chicago to St Louis, so far I could have made it to India and half way back with how long it has taken. Having abandoned air travel due to thunderstorms and cancelled flights, the usual 1hr transit time, is 26hrs and counting, I am appreciating the spaciousness made available from my travel blunders. I just went into the settings on my Facebook and looked at the list of people I have blocked. Which is what inspired this blog post. As I looked at the names, 8 of them in total and I thought to myself about the common thread these people share? Why did I chose to block these people? Well one I have never met, but for some reason she just loves to slam and slander me on social media, another is a guy that just creeps me out. The other 6, 3 men and 3 women all have something in common. They all made big messes in our relationships, from slander, to lies, to stealing, to unethical lack of integrity big mess kind of stuff and never cleaned it up. No apology, no ownership, no responsibility, only excuses and blame. That is ok, I don’t lose sleep over them, or what they did, I don’t take it personally, they are where they are, no hard feelings, I seriously wish them the best, and also recognize they are  just not my peeps. But should any of those 6 people, ever one day reach out, I am totally open to the conversation bc I know there is possibility for change to happen and believe a tiger can change its stripes.

There is one guarantee in life – it is going to get messy. You get to choose to be a baby and run away, or be a leader and clean it up.