“Little things are important.” “It’s the little things that mean the most.” These are sayings most of us have heard all our lives. The reason little things are important and matter so much is that big things are made up of little things. Little things require a lot of thought, discipline, commitment, and sacrifice. That means that little things are actually “big things.”
Ok. I’ll admit it. I can be a whiner and a complainer. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true. It’s too easy for me to complain about all the things that are wrong, or difficult, or inconvenient. I have so much to be grateful for, but too often instead of having an attitude of gratitude, I just have an attitude.
God knew that His people could be complainers and whiners. So in Deuteronomy chapter 16 you find God placing special importance on three specific times of celebration.
As any cook knows, it takes a variety of ingredients to make a great dish. Yes, some cooks make incredible dishes by somewhat randomly throwing a variety of things into a pot, but most tend to follow a recipe…whether it’s in their head or on a piece of paper.
Numbers chapter 31 is a recipe of sorts. It’s a chapter that covers a variety of ingredients for a well lived life. Many of these ingredients are so simple and common we tend to overlook them, if not reminded once in a while.
I remember an old black and white movie about a native tribe on an island. In the movie, this tribe was trying to appease their volcano god by offering up an innocent victim. I remember watching the screen as the wild-eyed natives walked their trembling victim to the edge of the volcano. Even as a kid, I thought, “What a harsh and demanding god!”
At first read, Numbers chapters 28-29 can sound much the same. But this is not what these chapters are about!
Just a brief reminder on this Thanksgiving Day that giving thanks should be more than just a day on the calendar. It should be the practice of our life and marriage. It’s true that some people seem more naturally thankful than others, but giving thanks is something at which you can practice and get better. I’m thankful to each of you for reading Normal Marriage. Happy Thanksgiving!
The other night I had a disturbing dream. I don’t have many disturbing dreams, but this one shook me to my core.
In my dream, my wife and I were separate…and she initiated it! She seemed to have little interest in being around me, and asked me not to contact her. Her indifference toward me was beyond painful, and it was clear that her indifference towards me was going to end our marriage. But that was not the most disturbing part of the dream.
Right now, my spouse is probably laughing her head off at the idea that I can tell you how to be a better person. She would be the first to tell you I have a long way to go in that department. And the idea that I could give you all the answers you need on how to be a better person in one short blog post is pretty laughable also.
But I can give you the basic building block for how to be a better person. Then, you can take those basic building blocks and build on them in a way that best suits you, your situation, and your need.
Here are the basic building block for how to be a better person:
On Thanksgiving Day, it’s good to look at the role gratitude plays in marriage. Many marriages are unhappy, not because of big things like abuse or affairs, but because of a little thing like a lack of gratitude.
Around 2008, Neil Pasricha was having a difficult time in life. His marriage was failing, his best friend committed suicide, and the market was threatening his job. Falling into depression, Neil realized he needed to do something to turn his attitude and life around. So, as a first step, he started a seemingly insignificant website called 1000awesomethings.com.
There, Neil began to build a list of things he was grateful for…both big and small. Things like:
- When the police car that’s been following you for miles finally goes around you.
- When the mug you’re warming up in the microwave stops with the handle facing you.
- When the nostril that’s been plugged up for so long, suddenly opens up.
- When you hit something with your car and there’s somehow no damage.
- When you pick the fastest moving line at the grocery store.
- When you’re on vacation and finally forget what day of the week it is.
He listed one thousand such things, and so many people resonated with these often overlooked reasons for gratitude that Neil’s website exploded. Eventually, his website generated a book entitled The Book of Awesome, which made the New York Times best seller list. All because he pointed out that we have more for which to be grateful than we stop to realize.
In marriage, we are often more unhappy with what we don’t have, than happy with what we do have. We have so many things in our marriages to be grateful for, yet when we don’t get something we want, we feel slighted and cheated. And the more we have, the less grateful we seem to be.
“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” – Eric Hoffer.
But gratitude is important in marriage, because…
- It changes your focus. Gratitude causes you to focus on all the good things you like and have, rather than all the things you don’t like or don’t have.
- It leads you to appreciate who and what you have. The more you focus on the things for which you have to be grateful, the more you appreciate them.
- It lightens your mood. Your appreciation for what you have will begin to root out your complaining and frustration…which will lighten your mood. This will make you easier to live with, not to mention more attractive.
- It makes you more of a giving spouse. When you see all you have to be grateful for, you tend to be less self-centered and self-focused. It’s more easy to give of yourself, because you see how much you’ve been given.
Even Scripture stresses the importance of gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us:
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
I know there are a lot of things that go into marital unhappiness, that don’t elicit our gratitude. But note that the passage doesn’t say to be thankful for every circumstance, but rather to be thankful in every circumstance…which would include the difficult ones.
What if you could begin to turn around your dissatisfaction in marriage with something as simple as learning to be more grateful for the many good things you have. What if you could enjoy your marriage more simply by changing your attitude to gratitude?
If you need to be more grateful in your marriage, take these two simple steps:
- Assess. Begin by making a list of all the things you have to be thankful for in your marriage. Big and small, don’t leave anything out. As you make your list, ask yourself what would life be like if you didn’t have these things, or if your spouse didn’t do those things for which you’re grateful.
- Express. William A. Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Get in the habit of expressing gratitude for the things on your list. You would be surprised by the power a simple, heartfelt “thank you” has on your spouse. Not only will expressing gratitude affirm and encourage your spouse, it will improve your attitude as well. Donald Curtis said, “It is impossible to be negative while we are giving thanks.”
So many marriages could be strengthened if spouses simply became more grateful for what they have and more faithful to express that gratitude. When it comes to marriage, gratitude is a great attitude!
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” – William A. Ward.
If you or your marriage needs a does of gratitude, let me challenge you to do the following: Get a small notebook. Everyday, list five things about your spouse and/or your marriage for which you’re grateful. Don’t repeat anything on your list. Everyday, express your gratitude to your spouse. Do this for 30 days. I can almost guarantee that by the end of 30 days, you will be different, and consequently so will your marriage.
Copyright © 2017 Bret Legg
Have you ever wished you could change your marriage? Maybe you were at odds with your spouse or maybe your marriage had just become mundane and predictable. Whatever it was, you didn’t like the way things were and you wished you could change things.
In a TED Talk entitled “The 3 A’s of Awesome,” Neil Pasricha tells of a time when his life needed a change. A difficult economy had cost him his job, his best friend had committed suicide and his marriage was falling apart.
The credits are one of the most neglected parts of a movie. Unless you’re a true movie buff, when the credits roll you probably feel the movie is over and get up to go. It’s a rare individual that stays and reads all those names and positions racing quickly up the screen.
But if it weren’t for the people listed in the credits, there would be no movie. Each one of those people played a specific part in bringing the movie to the screen. Directors, actors, script writers, costume designers, special effects artists…there’s a long list of people who added something to the making of the movie. Recognizing these people is important.
As you work through your sexual abuse, a lot of time and attention is given to the antagonist of your story…the abuser(s). Early in the process, the abuser(s) tend to get top billing and most of the screen time.
Then later on, as you move through the process, the attention tends to shift to the protagonist of the story…you. As you learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, you get more of the billing and more of the screen time.
As you come to the end of the process, it is really easy to feel like “this movie is over,” and quickly move on to something else. But there is still one more part to your “movie” that you don’t want to ignore. You need to take the time to credit all the people who have played a positive and helpful part in bringing you to this point.
This could be counselors, doctors, spouses, family members, close friends, or total strangers who unknowingly offered you words of kindness and acts of support. This supporting cast of people is an important part of your story and should not be glanced over. Their investment in your life, both big and small, have contributed to you arriving at this point in your movie. They deserve your recognition and gratitude before you move on.
Take some time to think about everyone who has contributed to your care and growth. Make a list of the people and their contributions…big and small. Think of their good gifts to you. Express your gratitude, if not to them, then to someone else. Don’t leave this movie without rolling the credits that are due.