06 Apr Gratitude
We would all love to come up with a magical formula that would make relationships better. It would be great to have a tangled, distressed marriage “fixed” with a three step formula or some other quick solution. Relationships, however, take time and effort.
But, over the years,I have found one quality that makes a tremendous difference in our relationships and lives. It is gratitude. In our country it is easy to think of gratitude in terms of material things. Our family recently took a three week road trip through Mexico. We saw and stayed in some incredibly beautiful homes and hotels, but we also saw and stayed in some places that were very primitive by our standards. We joked that if they advertised “Bathrooms with water” it probably wasn’t the type of place we were accustomed to. We saw people living in stick houses with dirt floors and blankets for doors. We became very thankful not only for our home, but for Quik Trip, Starbucks and just clean American style restrooms.
But there is gratitude that goes beyond the material side of life. It is gratitude for life itself and for the existence of relationships and the simple acts of another person.
In marriage counseling, I often start a session with “What is your partner doing right this week?” I want them to focus on the good in each other and recognize the positives that their partner is doing. It is easy to recognize the negative things they are doing. We tend to catalog the wrongs done to us and archive them for decades.
But scripture reminds us over and over again to give thanks with a grateful heart and Phil 4:8 says whatsoever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.
Focusing on the admirable qualitlies of the people in our lives and being thankful for them helps take our focus off the wrong and puts it on the right. And in most relationships, people are doing more right things than wrong. There are just some things that we expect people to do that we never bother to appreciate or thank them for. Yet if they didn’t do them, we would be very unhappy!
How often do we say to our spouse, “thanks for working, our life would be very different if you weren’t working” or “thanks for having a relationship with the Lord” or “thanks for doing laundry” or “thanks for helping with homework.”
Now, some would protest, “what if they aren’t doing those things or doing them the way I want them to do it?” Everyone has something they can be thanked for. It may be a stretch to find something, but the rewards will be worth it.
There are two benefits that we get for being thankful. The first is that it changes our hearts and attitudes and helps us see people from a more positive perspective. We are seeing them as a whole instead of only seeing what they do wrong. The other thing that it does is to encourage the people we are in relationship with, which will give them confidence and freedom to grow. Thanking people doesn’t make them lazy, it does just the opposite. When someone appreciate us and what we do, it makes us want to do more. Thanks is a great motivator.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we just act grateful and forget all the things that they are doing that drive us crazy. Using the New Testament as our example, the apostle Paul sure didn’t hesitate to confront issues. But when we do deal with issues, it is from a more positive perspective.
Janis Sharpe MS, LMFT