Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
The Apostle Paul∗
Your life today is the result of your thinking yesterday. Your life tomorrow will be determined by what you think today.
John C. Maxwell+
Even if you aren’t a Christian in actuality or demeanor, I feel sorry for you if you cannot allow yourself the freedom to tap into the wisdom in our quote for the day. It wouldn’t matter your religious propensity, what husband or wife or future spouse couldn’t benefit from Paul’s exhortation to quit letting your mind wallow in the gutter? This is Paul’s commentary on Jesus’ quote from a few decades earlier that you are what you think. Jesus was quoting Solomon from a 1000 years before that. So we have a long tradition in Western Civilization that thinking and doing are tied up on who we are and what we’ll accomplish and the results we’ll get and the legacy we’ll leave behind.
If you’re tired of my Christian bent, consider Ralph Waldo Emerson, a man who publicly denounced any Christian moorings:
Life consists of what a man is thinking about all day.+
So…what are you thinking about all day? This will determine what you do. This will determine how you invest your time. This will determine how you feel. This will determine the sum total of the results of your life.
It’s easy to think of our spouses in negative terms. There’s some scary research out there, that suggests our expectations of others (our spouses, kids, co-workers) determine their actions. If you believe your spouse will disappoint you, your mind will be honing in on possible shortcomings, and aha! See, he failed me again! If you are thinking he failed you, you will be disappointed and have negative thoughts about him and will treat him with disdain. If your husband is anything like you, which, since you are one, is very likely (!), he will have a difficult time not being judgmental back and you’ll interpret his mood that he’s being negative and that will in turn give you justification for harboring more negative thoughts about him and a less generous spirit and a haughtiness in your own spirit that you are superior and he is this person that is out to hurt you, and make you miserable. He does these things on purpose and why is he so selfish and how come he never does what I want without a chip on his shoulder and he’s such a control freak and into himself. He has no room for anyone else, so why would I want to touch him? Why would I want to convey to him that his behavior is acceptable? I want him to know that his behavior and his attitude is despicable. So you treat him with disregard. You don’t tend to his needs because that would somehow convey to him that you love him and care for him and believe in him and hope the best for him, but you don’t do those things. Not anymore. Not the way he treats me. Can you believe it? It’s just more of this crap day after day. I’m just so sick of it. Make love? Are you kidding me? What love do we have? No way. Get away from me. And don’t touch me on the butt. You perv. Is that all you think about? When are you going to start acting like a husband? When are you gonna start treating me like you love me? You just sit there. You never come home. All you do is work. And when you come home all you do is watch TV. It’s like I’ve got another kid. Where you going? Hey, come back here. You won’t discuss anything with me. Just like you to run from a conversation. We’re talking about how you disappoint me and you never want to listen to any of my concerns.
There will always be time for dirt, and dark, and dreary. The nights are long enough. What about some sun? What about a gentle breeze to blow the clouds away? What about a generous spirit? What about a kind or encouraging word? A gentle touch? A pat on the back? A helpful hand? This happy marriage you want so desperately…do you bring to it joy? What about you? You say you want your husband to give to you, to love you, to reach out to you, to help you. Do you have a harder time being nice to your husband if he’s nice to you or if he’s mean? Duh? So if you want him to be nice to you maybe you should be ____________to him? Can you fill in the blank?
I could have as easily written the previous two paragraphs to a husband. The principle’s the same. He feels picked on so he withdraws or gets angry and defensive. Why come home? I’ll just be criticized. At least the people at work think I do a good job. Why help at home? She says I never do it right anyway. And the cycle continues.
Whatever is right, good, positive, encouraging, uplifting, high-fiveable. Whatever!!!!! Think. Think. Think. On these things. Try that for an experiment and see if you don’t get better results down the road.
∗ Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
+ First quote p. 4; second quote p. xvii in Maxwell, John C. (2003) Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work. Warner Books.