Sometimes it frustrates me that people think I only pretend to have a fairy tale marriage, like when they urge me to “get real.” I have an online friend named Nan who is also part of a couple who makes you want to puke, and she feels exactly about this.
“I’ve ridden the drama train before,” she says. “So has my husband. We are striving for peace. Our life is real and not without issues, but our marriage truly is wonderful. Part of why it is wonderful is that we always look for the best in each other, and we talk nice about each other.”
This resonates with me. And not just because I like Nan, who is an ordained minister as well as a writer and a friend. It resonates with me as a human, and as someone who has made it their life’s work to enter problematic workplace situations and help diagnose and fix problems between people. Through this, I have come to believe in life that if you look hard enough for something, you will find it. In everything. If you think people are out to get you, you’ll find “signs” that they are. If you believe things aren’t your fault, you’ll “see” the fault of others. If you think others are belittling you, you’ll discover “evidence” of belittling attitudes.
BUT IF YOU BELIEVE THAT OTHERS ARE HEROIC AND AWESOME, YOU WILL FIND THAT AS WELL.
Don’t believe me? Try it. Just for today, make a list of all the things the most important person in your life does right. All of them. Big and small. Even the ones you take for granted. Look hard. Make that list a novel. Notice the things they do in all aspects of their life. Did he get up on time and make it in to work? Did she obey the law on the way? Did he let you know what his plans are this evening? Did he kiss the kids goodbye on his way out the door? Call her mother? Put her plate in the sink? Smile at you? Remain married to you despite your many faults? Bring in the mail? Practice good hygiene? Not leave the cap off the toothpaste? I mean it. List them all.
But don’t let yourself look for any negatives, not for a single second. Today is a “gathering positive evidence” day. Reject critical interpretations. Banish thoughts about faults. Refuse to look for sins and omissions.
Nan reminded me that the Bible says (Philippians 4:8) “focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.” I remember hearing this verse in church when I was younger, and I always interpreted the accompanying sermon differently than I do now. I thought I was supposed to surround myself with only virtuous people (although I didn’t, HELLO, Eric! j.k.) and I believed I was told that I should strive toward those traits, which I sometimes did, others not so much. I am looking at it with new eyes, today, thanks to Nan.
What if we applied this teaching to how we think about others? Our spouses, sure, but even our co-workers, boss, kids, friends, and neighbors? It’s harder to find the “goodness and light” in some of them. I have a few folks in mind as I type that. But don’t take the easy way out on this. Look harder.
What you look for, you will find. What you focus on is what you see. Your thoughts become your reality. Today, I am filling my thoughts with positive interpretations of my husband, and my “others.” Will you join me? I mean, what do you have to lose, right?
Here’s the start of my list:
Eric took Clark to school and texted me from work that he loved me.
Clark got up the first time I asked him to.
Susanne fed the animals without a reminder.
Liz sent personal thank you’s for all her Christmas gifts.
See how easy that was? Thanks, Nan. Now, everyone out there, it’s your turn.