Dr. Wall proposes that instead of letting little things bug us and ruin our happiness we find a way to appreciate what we DO have.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness…
And the way of peace they do not know.
Romans 3:14, 17
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
If you take a moment to ponder the verses above you will note two very different attitudes. If you knew the context of these verses (The first quote is from the Old Testament and quoted by Paul; the second is written by Paul), you’d know that the first set of verses, are a summary of the natural state of mankind after Adam and Eve sinned. Paul is saying that since that day, when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, all of us, you and I, have been stuck looking at and living in the dark side, even when the sun is shining: It’s 9 o’clock somewhere. You’d also know that the verse from Philippians, where Paul says he’s learning to be content, is Paul’s condition only because Jesus Christ changed him from the inside out.
How can someone go from such a dark place to such a peaceful place? Paul became his name after he became a Christian. Before his conversion his name was Saul. His parents named him after Saul, the first King of Israel, which is a little surprising, because the original Saul was a self-absorbed loser and a general embarrassment to the nation of Israel. You gotta wonder about parents that would name their kid after the nation’s number one disappointment. It’d be like naming your American kid “Benedict” or “Oswald.”. The Pre-Paul Saul was anything but content. He was such a disgruntled chap, he went around arresting the Lord’s disciples, “breathing out murderous threats” (Acts 9:1), not exactly the kind of guy you’d want to invite to a party.
Which brings me to Marty’s cartoon (For those of you new to my blog, he’s one of my son’s, who just happens to be a very talented cartoonist. He posts weekly cartoons on his website that are available from the link to the right or here.):
Marty’s cartoon is both funny and scary. We can’t imagine someone turning down a blessing in the midst of heartache, but we do it all the time. It’s understandable that someone would be distressed about their marriage after an affair or because of alcohol or drugs or bankruptcy or a death of a child or a loss of a job or a house burning down or losing the family farm. That would be tough. Even so, not everything about the marriage is a total disaster. Yeah, we have to stop the bleeding, but it’s amazing how far people can come and what they can overcome. It’s very rewarding to see many of these marriages come out the other side and do FINE!
What is really hard to take, though, are these couples where pretty much everything is great in the marriage, and one or both are obsessing on one little thing that is out of sorts. They both have jobs, their mortgage is paid on time, they have money in the bank, their house is clean, they have a nice house, they have nice kids (today at least!), they have two nice cars in the driveway, they both take out their Blackberries to set their next appointments, they are dressed sharp, they are articulate, well educated, no health problems, no handicapped or terminally ill children, their pantries are full and they’ve still found a way to be completely miserable with each other! AHHHH! Stop it already.
It’s usually something deceptively simple: she feels lonely because he doesn’t talk much; he feels lonely because she claims sex is not important to her. Or they argue about a couple of things. Or one or both have quit talking or coming home much. Or one is grumpy all the time (not really, of course). Or angry.
What brings you to therapy today?
My husband is angry all the time. He has an anger problem.
What do you do when he gets angry?
I get angry!
You know, if one of them would learn to be content, the other could deal with his or her stuff. But if they both let the other’s mood bring them down, then down and down they go. Then they can divorce and when they are asked, why did you divorce?
My husband was angry all the time.
And what have we learned? That in whatever circumstance I am, I deserve to be angry.
Our marriages could use a few more people, who are content with what they have. Count the blessings they DO have instead of fretting in what they DON’T have.
For example: the wife, who frets and fumes her husband won’t talk to her, is training her husband to NOT talk to her, because her mood has made her unapproachable. The garage, the office or basement will look nice to him.
The husband, who grouses his wife isn’t sexual with him and mopes around because he feels rejected and comments to his wife how disappointed he is in her, is training her to hate sex in spades.
It’s a lot easier to talk to a spouse, who is in a good mood and is approachable and fun and teases and flirts and is in a good mood.
It’s a lot easier to be sexual with a spouse, who helps and asks what’s up and calls and is in a good mood and nothing seems to faze him.
If Saul couldn’t be happy until the last Christ follower on earth was bound up in prison, he’s going to spend his life being unhappy. It’s an impossible goal. If you don’t believe the message of Christ is real, believe it for the miracle it was in Paul’s life: He went from a murderous thug to a person concerned that others needed to hear the good news of the gospel.
Hey, if you can’t be happy unless your spouse does this and this and this and doesn’t do that and that and that, then you are bound and determined to be unhappy. It’s an impossible goal. There will always be something out of reach.
Enough already! Stop it!
Our thanks to Marty Wall for the cartoon in today’s blog. Marty’s other cartoons can be seen here. Check him out.
Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.
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