Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

A recent Family Life Moments to You posting suggested that most often when we enter a room we can gauge in an instant whether or not the mood is warm and friendly, tense, comfortable or serious. In this sense we are all “thermometers”, i.e. we read the emotional temperature in the room.

This made me think (a novel experience for me most of the time) that this concept applies to our marriages as well. It doesn’t take a Dr. Phil to know when our husbands or wives are in an irritable, frustrated, playful, or happy mood. If the kids have been bouncing off the wall all day it should take the husband all of two seconds to know that his wife has had a particularly difficult day. If the husband comes home and is dejected, even though he says everything is “fine”, the wife knows better.

Here’s the insight – don’t be a thermometer – be a thermostat. Thermostats don’t just record the temperature of the room they have the ability to change the temperature of the room to make it comfortable.

So to the husband who comes in the door and realizes that a re-enactment of Hiroshima has taken place in the couple’s living room he might go up to his wife, say “I love you”, give her a big hug and say “how can I help you?”. (Most likely he will first have to get the smelling salts to revive his wife). To the wife who realizes that her husband of one word sentences is not really “fine” she could say something like “I just want you to know that I love you so much, I think you are the best husband in the world.” Guys thrive on affirmation and respect.

To carry the analogy a little further, learn to be a thermostat for God in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Tell the grumpy checkout clerk how much you appreciate their efficiency, tell the waitress/waiter what a great job they are doing, tell your child’s teacher how much you appreciate them, etc.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Change Your Words - Change Your World

A friend of mine sent me the following link to a YouTube video which I found to be quite insightful. Your first reaction may be “What does this have to do with marriage?” Watch it and then let’s talk.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

By reflecting on the YouTube video when contextualized by the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians it became apparent to me that there was a message for married couples, if not for parents.

Does unwholesome talk ever come out of my mouth? Do birds fly?

Is what I say to my wife always helpful, do my words build her up according to her needs? Do zebras fly?

Is my wife benefited by what I say? Sometimes she is. Okay, I’m partially one for three.

Here is where it gets tricky. Could I use different words that would be more uplifting and helpful while at the same time not being manipulative? And could I say these words in a way that they would be heard and have a beneficial result?

For example:
(a) “Haven’t you ironed my shirts yet?”

(b) “Honey, I can’t believe you manage to iron my shirts so often when you’re so busy. I really appreciate it. I feel like I present a very professional image to my clients when my shirts are ironed.”

Okay, this may be a bad example for many reasons. I suspect those who still iron shirts are in the minority – permanent press has been around for a few years as have dry cleaners. The point is that by seeking to build someone up, by saying something that will benefit the other person they will be more likely to hear what you have to say. And after all, isn’t that one of the primary purposes of communication?