Little Things — The Dark Side

You know the stereotype: one spouse squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle, the other at the end and each are annoyed with the other. I have always found this interesting but only because my husband and I don’t really fit these stereotypes. I do know of one or two habits Dave found irritating early in our marriage and so I do not try to exasperate him by doing them — love in action.

A few weeks ago, he told me something that he’d never mentioned in our 25 years of marriage. (Note: This article was originally written many years ago — when we’d only been married for 25 years.) In our first week of sharing that first little apartment, Dave noticed that when I put the toilet paper on the holder, it was in a different direction than he was used to seeing when he grew up.

He never said a thing. He thought it was interesting that there was another way to do it! Since that was obviously my preference, he converted to my method and I never knew about it. When this came out recently, I just laughed and said, “It took me 25 years to find this out? I’m still learning new things about you even after all these years!” (Naturally, if I am a visitor in someone’s house and see that they do it differently, I honor their wishes and do it their way — love in action again.)

Note what didn’t happen in that first newlywed week. Dave did not get angry and instruct me on how to do it his way. I did not get defensive and say my way was best. Had he told me 25 years ago, I would have changed and done it his way to please him. Toilet paper is insignificant, of course, but we all have seen how some people blow trivial issues all out of proportion. Each issue becomes a brick. Brick adds to brick to construct an impenetrable wall.

Kind things done for people are uplifting. Little annoyances, magnified or unresolved, can result in decay of the entire relationship. Each instance of anger toward your spouse is like putting another brick on the wall, making it higher and higher. It becomes increasingly difficult to reach out to your loved one as the wall continues to grow.

Take it a step further. Another use of bricks is to build a beautiful walkway. The uplifting, thoughtful little things we do are like putting down another brick in the walkway to open new paths to our loved one. Are you building walls with criticism, nagging, complaining, or anger? Change that negative behavior. Encourage, uplift, and compliment your spouse and you will be building a walkway to his heart instead of a wall where you can no longer reach him.

You say, “Oh, but you don’t understand! It’s not the bricks that bother me, it’s picking up his socks every day!!” Well, ask someone who has lost a life partner, and she will tell you she would give anything to have him back even if she had to pick up socks every day.

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Proverbs 27:15

This nagging woman is torture! Let me give you an example. There were two women, both expecting God to use them in a great work. Betty’s husband had lost all of his money. She had to stay at home taking care of the house leaving no time for teaching, writing, or working for the Lord. She accepted this situation and vowed to make the best of it. All of her duties were done heartily as if she were working for the Lord. Her attitude was cheerful, she was a support to her husband, and pleasant to be around. God put her in a position she didn’t desire but she made the best of it for His sake.

Julie was confined at home with two invalid children to amuse all day long. She worried, rebelled, and retreated into a sad spiritual condition. Being around her drained one’s spirit. The first became a vessel meet for the master’s use, the second a broken vessel not usable. Which one wasted her life? Wouldn’t you rather be known as a Betty who encouraged people rather than as Julie the nag?

Emotions are only servants – you decide to believe and obey.” — Hanna Whitall Smith

Betty felt devastated at first but she took control of her emotions and positive actions followed. Julie let the circumstances get her down and keep her down. It is a question of being vs. doing. Do you want to be the type of individual that continually finds fault with every little thing? If you recognize that you are, then “unbecome” that kind of person.

How? Act positively and encourage others. You don’t have to feel positive to think so — just do it! Act as if you are positive and soon the pretense will become real. This is the only legitimate way to be a hypocrite — namely pretending to be something that you’re not!

One little compliment can go a long way. Be aware of your tendency to look at the negative side of life and consciously work on seeing the good. Give your attitude to God. He is the one who will help you grow beyond these petty annoyances. Each time the anger or irritation returns, give it to God again and again and again if necessary.

Practice rising above your circumstances. Look at things from a heavenly perspective. In any given day, what are the things, thoughts, and actions that are really important from God’s point of view? Certainly, you must do your job whether it’s inside or outside of the home, but within that framework how can you show God’s love and spirit to others? Who doesn’t appreciate a cheerful worker?

Learn the art of compromise. Any successful relationship requires give and take. If she wants a pretty couch and he wants a comfy one, compromise. A plain comfortable couch can look very pretty with colorful throw pillows. Deals are worked out in the business world daily without unseemly argument and emotion. The same can work at home. Control the emotions and come to an agreeable settlement. Each side can give a little — and enjoy the giving!

Take a look at yourself as others see you. Their remarks and body language can tell you a lot. Are you critical or complimentary? Helpful or hindering? Listening or nagging? You have to know where you are coming from to know where you are going. Honest appraisal of yourself can be difficult and discouraging but to effect a solution one must first recognize the problem. The apostle Paul gives some insight in how to treat outsiders as opposed to fellow Christians. He says:

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth within you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:17,18

This is his advice for outsiders. Think how our families would improve when shown this consideration.

Some people are natural Pollyannas — always playing the “glad game”; looking at the bright side. Those who are not must learn to ignore the negative and daily strive to be optimistic. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we repeat over and over, “Look at the bright side, look at the bright side.” Don’t let your actions be bricks that are building a wall. Practice love and put a walkway down that invites others to see Christ in you.


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