In life, no matter how much good there is, you can always find something bad if you look for it. You can find some fault, some weakness, something that you don’t understand or like. You can either develop an eye for the good, or you can develop a critical eye and always see the bad.
This is why marriages are in so much trouble today. A spouse or both spouses have developed a habit of being negative and only seeing the negative. They’ve become too critical and view everything through their critical eye.
It’s like this man I heard about. His wife was making him breakfast, and he asked for two eggs, one scrambled and one fried. So she made them and put them on a plate. When he saw them, he shook his head. She said, “What did I do wrong now? That’s exactly what you asked for.”
He said, “I should have known it. You fried the wrong egg.”
You see, you can train yourself to see your spouse’s strengths, or you can train yourself to see their weaknesses. You can focus on what you like about your spouse and magnify their good qualities, or you can focus on what you don’t like and magnify the things that annoy you.
Some people have become so critically minded that no matter what the other one does, it’s not going to be right. They never see the good their spouse does anymore, and they’ve forgotten the reasons they fell in love and got married. It’s because they’re magnifying the wrong things.
I know we all have faults and things that can get on each other’s nerves. But the key is, what are you magnifying? Are you just magnifying that annoyance, letting a critical spirit rise up? Or are you choosing to see the good and only focusing on the good?
If you’re negative toward your spouse and you operate out of a critical spirit, it’s going to poison your whole outlook. You won’t communicate properly. You won’t want to do things together, and it will affect you in every area.
After all, when we’re critical, we begin to nag and exaggerate and make a big deal out of things that are not big deals; that’s when we start complaining that the wrong egg got fried. “Well, you never take out the trash.” “Well, you never spend any time with me.” “You’re always late.”
I’ve discovered people respond to praise more than they respond to criticism. The next time you want your husband to mow the lawn, instead of nagging and saying, “You lazy thing. When are you ever going to mow our lawn? It looks so bad.” Just say, “Did I ever tell you that when you’re out there mowing the lawn, you look really good?” or “When I see your muscles bulging out of your shirt and that sweat dripping down your face, you look so handsome, so attractive.” You praise him like that, and he’ll mow the lawn every day! People respond to praise more than criticism.
When we’re constantly critical, we have to realize the problem is not with our spouse. It’s not even with our circumstances. The problem is with us.
There was this couple that moved into a new neighborhood. Early one morning while they were eating, the lady looked out the window and saw the neighbor hanging her wash out on the line to dry. She noticed that the wash was so dirty and so dingy. She said to her husband, “That neighbor doesn’t know how to wash. Her clothes aren’t clean. I wonder if she even uses detergent.” Day after day, she made these same comments. “I can’t believe she lets her family wear those dirty, dingy clothes.”
Several weeks later, she looked out that window, and the clothes were just as bright and clean and beautiful as could be. She was so surprised. She called her husband and said, “Honey, look. The lady finally learned how to wash. I wonder what happened.” The husband smiled and said, “Honey,
I got up early this morning and cleaned our window.” The problem was not that the neighbor had dirty laundry. The problem was the window she was looking through was not clean. She was seeing everything through a tainted filter. It’s the same way beauty; or you only see the scratch in the floor and never the amazing house; if you never see what your spouse does right and only what they do wrong, then my encouragement to you is to clean your window. The problem is not with your spouse. It’s an internal issue.
If you struggle in this area, I would encourage you to make a list of the qualities that you like about your spouse. Write down the things that they do right. He may not be a good communicator, but he’s a hard worker. Put that on your list. She may have some weaknesses, but she’s a great mother. She’s smart. She’s intelligent. Write that down. Every day go over it. Start focusing on their good qualities.
You have to make a switch. Decide today to start appreciating your spouse’s strengths and learn to downplay their weaknesses. If you do, your marriage will be filled with more peace, unity and love, and you’ll see God bless your marriage in greater ways.
Joel Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas