Have you ever heard the saying, “I can’t see the forest for the trees”?
I googled the definition of that phrase and several different sources said it means that we get too involved in the details to see the bigger picture.
I think sometimes, especially in our marriages, we get too involved thinking about OURSELVES to see what our spouses are really doing. Trust me, I often find myself being selfish and self-serving. We all tend concentrate on what we aren’t getting, what the other person does WRONG, what the other person ISN’T doing, what annoys us, what makes us mad…the list could go on and on.
What’s wrong with this picture is we can’t see the forest for the trees. We are too busy stroking our own ego to recognize value in the other person. It’s hard, isn’t it? Marriage is like a magnet that pulls out all the selfish, nastiness in us and blows it up for everyone to see. We point fingers at our spouses without realizing that while one finger points at them, three fingers are pointing back at us.
“But he FORGOT my birthday!”
“She NEVER does anything kind for me!”
“But he is SO LAZY! He just sits on the couch!”
“I do EVERYTHING around here. I am not appreciated. No one cares about me. I am sick and tired of it.”
Do any of these complaints sound familiar? I hear the echoes of these phrases resounding in the historical archives of marriages everywhere. We are missing the forest because we are staring down those trees.
Well, I have a seven day strategy to help you see the forest again. This beautiful idea was first gifted to me by a dear friend. She decided that she would take a journal and write down EVERY GOOD thing her husband did for a period of time. All of it.
And she was blown away by what she found.
He did A LOT of things for her that she never noticed. She was too busy staring down the trees to see the forest. She filled up that journal with all the every day occurrences, both ordinary and extraordinary, that her husband did. And her love for him grew exponentially.
I’m not saying this little exercise is the answer to all your marital problems. But I do know that it will help give you a little perspective. Recently another friend of mine decided to try this little experiment, and she says it has dramatically changed her. She is seeing her husband in a different, more positive light.
Grab a journal.
Get one small enough that you can take it wherever you go. Stick it in your purse or your pocket. But keep it nearby.
Now, for the next seven days, write down EVERY POSITIVE thing your spouse does. You are only concentrating on the good stuff.
At the end of each day, look back on your entries. Read them over to yourself. Think about adding anything you might have missed.
At the end of seven days I would bet there’s going to be a shift. A shift in the way you think, a shift in the way you react, a shift in the way you love.
When we focus on gratitude and good things, we see a noticeable difference in our attitudes. We are more joyful. We recognize the good and are more optimistic about the bad.
Maybe your marriage doesn’t need saving. But it always needs serving. I want to serve my husband with an unconditional love that surpasses what I, in my own strength, am able to give. I want to use every tool in my belt to build our marriage and make it better, stronger.
Maybe your marriage just needs a shot in the arm. You’ve been staring at the trees too long. This strategy can give you a step back to see the forest.
Maybe you feel like this is a last ditch effort to save your marriage. Your heart is hurting and you feel like all is lost. Seek wise counsel. Visit with your pastor. Attend a marriage seminar. Pray. Pray. Pray. But definitely try this strategy. It’s hard to ignore the beautiful forest when you’ve gained the perspective needed to stop focusing on the trees.
When you finish journaling – and maybe you want to do it for thirty days or more – do what’s best for you and your marriage, decide what you want to do with it. Maybe you need to keep it on your nightstand for encouragement. Maybe you compile it into a memorable gift for your spouse on your next anniversary or his/her birthday.
Maybe you read it to them out loud, at night, in bed (hmmmmm….).
But just try it. Marriages are meant to last a lifetime. And whatever we can do to live out the best versions of our marriage is worth the time and energy it takes to make it happen.
So who’s with me? Seven days. One journal. One thousand joys.