News and Views
ENHANCING & PRESERVING MARRIAGE Part 2--CHANGE
Friday, June 15, 2012
Change is one of the certainties of life. The world changes around us, our circumstances change, we change as individuals. Change can be positive or negative. Some changes we can control and direct, while others take place in spite of our wishes. The "Serenity Prayer" begins, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
One of the things which we cannot change is other people. We cannot demand, control, coerce, bargain, manipulate or in any way force people to change according to our wishes. We are to accept, appreciate and respect others for who they are, and look for and encourage the best in them.
We can change ourselves. It is possible to choose to change and control our own thoughts, attitudes, actions and emotions. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to love. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to stop blaming ourselves and others. It is possible, but not always easy, to develop the self-control which makes desired change possible.
Why would we want to change ourselves? When we are honest with ourselves, we recognize ways in which we are less than the best we'd like to be. We recognize ways in which we create some of our own problems. In the context of marriage, we may realize that we are not the kind of spouse that we would like to have. Note that this is not about blaming ourselves, putting ourselves down or beating ourselves up. Nor is it about trying to be what someone else would like us to be. Rather, it is about honestly recognizing ways in which we would like to be better, to improve, to become the best unique us.
In fact, wanting to become the best marriage partner we can be is a powerful incentive to change in order to strengthen a good marriage or to reduce problems. We cannot change our spouse, but when we make positive changes in the ways that we act and react, we change the nature of our interactions for the better, and our spouse may also make positive responses, although there's no guarantee.
Start by thinking about what you expect of your spouse. Then ask yourself three questions: Are my expectations realistic? Am I being the kind of spouse that I expect of a spouse? Is what I expect of a spouse the same as what my spouse wants, needs and expects of me? In other words, follow, but individualize, the Golden Rule, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." (Matt. 7:12 NIV) Think about how your best you would act and react in your marriage, then define some changes in attitude and action that your best you, being true to yourself, might reasonably make.
Changing self begins with recognizing, monitoring and changing the background flow of thought which is constantly running through our minds. It is recognizing which of those thoughts are not helpful, are negative or are even harmful, and replacing them with positive, true thoughts. It is looking at your assumptions and expectations of life and deciding which are true and helpful, and which are myths to be abandoned. It is emphasizing the positive, helpful, happy aspects of life. As the background flow of thought becomes more positive, the basic attitude becomes more positive, and actions and emotions follow.
A word of caution; this is not to ignore the real problems and negatives in life, but to refuse to dwell on them as that background flow of thought. It is finding a balance in which the background flow of thought is positive and thereby contributing to stable, positive living, and relegating the problems and negatives to chosen times for thinking through possible solutions.
The goal of change is to develop self-control as opposed to being controlled by such things as outside events, other people, moods or emotions, and through that self-control becoming the best unique person possible, a happy person with integrity, self-confidence, and genuine loving concern for others.
The techniques of change can be used by anyone, but the Christian has some advantages. God has all ultimate control, and as His creation made in His image, we have a limited capacity to control. When we see self-control listed among the Fruits of the Spirit, we realize two things: that the right use of our capacity to control is to have self-control, and we have the Holy Spirit within us to help develop that self-control.
To summarize, we cannot change others. We can change ourselves. Desirable change in ourselves is change toward being our best stable, self-controlled, happy self having integrity, confidence, and as much loving concern for others as we have for ourselves. Change begins with controlling our thought-life.
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