Appreciate What You Have

If you keep in mind that happiness depends more on your state of mind than it does on your bank statement, you will understand that there can be only one tool to free you from the money trap:  Appreciate and focus on what you have and don’t lament what you don’t have.

If you focus on what you don’t have, you’re going to be miserable.  And that will happen again and again, because guaranteed, there will always be someone who has more than you do.  If you look instead at what you do have, and I mean across the board, not simply the house and the car — if you look at your relationships and anything else that is meaningful to you, you cannot help but embrace and celebrate life for what it is. . . .

In the end, happy women know it’s not the woman who dies with the most pairs of shoes who garners the prize; it’s the one who has had the most fun dancing in them who is truly the winner.

— Dan Baker, PhD, and Cathy Greenberg, PhD, What Happy Women Know, p. 60-61

God’s Choice

For the Christian who has embraced God’s sovereignty, the choice is God’s; and the result, whatever that choice may be, is rejoicing.  In Him is our joy and peace.  If He gives marriage, then in marriage we rejoice.  If He gives singleness, we rejoice in singleness.  In whatever state we are, we know contentment.

— Margaret Clarkson, So You’re Single, p. 117

The Gratitude Channel

I often ask people to pay attention to natural beauty instead of watching reruns of their old grudges….  The world is full of things to appreciate and find beautiful once you teach yourself to look.  The forgiveness and gratitude channels remind us that even though we have been hurt, we do not have to dwell on the hurt.  The one thing no one can take from us is what we pay attention to and focus on.  We may have a habit of watching the grievance channel or the bitterness channel, but we still control the remote.  The good news is that, with practice, any habit can be broken or changed.  The world is full of heroes who have overcome difficulty by tuning in to channels of courage or bravery.  Each of us can become a hero in our own life, to the benefit of our friends and family.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 142

A Gift, However Temporary

Your ability to forgive grows stronger when you accept the gifts of love your partner offers.  At the very least this means accepting that your relationship will not last forever.  This also means that you should glorify any and all experiences you have of love.  One way to do this is to understand that love is a precious gift and to be grateful for the fact that you were given it, even if it did not last.  One of the tragedies I see in my work is people discounting past love because it did not last.  They are unable to take joy in the love they shared because that love ended.  I have had numerous people tell me that their marriage of twenty years was a sham because after fifteen years their partner had an affair.  Their pain was understandable, but it minimized the fact that the love in their lives was majestic and a blessing no matter how long it lasted.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 135

God Giving Through Us

It will not help much if we simply remind ourselves:  God gives to the ungrateful, and so should we.  But it will help if we remember that it’s God who gives when we give.  For then we need to deflect gratitude that comes to us anyway.  We are not its proper addressees.  God is.  And if we are convinced that gratitude doesn’t properly belong to us, then ingratitude doesn’t touch us.  We are not disrespected by ingratitude; our pride is not injured.  The ingratitude of recipients wrongs not us but the gift-giving God — the God whose goodness “gladly loses its good deed on the unthankful.”  And so we too continue to give, even to the ungrateful.

The self in whom Christ is active is modest.  It doesn’t give in order to aggrandize itself, prove its moral worth, or demonstrate its power.  It can forget itself in the act of giving and reach out to neighbors in love — it gives in order to delight in others and to help them in their needs.

— Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, p. 115

Love Rests on Choice

Real love can emerge only when there is choice.  If Sam is obliged to treat Carly exactly as she demands to be treated, then what is there for Sam to do but follow instructions?  If Carly gets to make all the decisions, then Sam is not really a full partner.  It is only real choice that allows romantic love to flourish.  Jack can tell Jill he will love her for the rest of his life, but he still has to wake up every day and do so.  If she hovers over him and rates his love for her by the hour, it will quickly be extinguished.  Jack will get tired of the judgments and the pressure to perform.  We cannot be forced to love.  As much as choice is a responsibility, it also provides the freedom to love and care and forgive.  The risks we take when we choose to love one particular person and the resulting uncertainty are the ground upon which true love emerges.

How remarkable is it that your lover continues to spend time with you, listen to you, and try to make your relationship work of his or her own free will?  How wonderful is it that you lover continues to have sex with you and to parent your children?  Your lover’s devotion and willingness to plug away day after day when there are sleeker and newer models to meet is a blessing.  We need to let our lovers know how amazing they are and how grateful we are.  We need to make offering gratitude a priority in our lives and in our marriages….

When you feel grateful for your lover, you are able to feel forgiving toward him or her.  Forgiveness is a positive emotion that can actually restore some of the damage done to your body by anger and stress.  When you are focused on your problems and grievances, your body is under stress.  Your stress chemicals are active, and you feel tired and beaten down.  You blame the offender for your distress and feel disempowered.  Feeling grateful and forgiving can wash away the stress and relax your body and mind.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 132-133

Vulnerable to Goodness

When our lovers offer us goodness or kindness, it is because they choose to do it.  They don’t have to be good or kind, and their gift is the fact that they made those choices when they did not have to.  Human nature is often selfish and insensitive, but we are all capable of also being remarkably generous and kind.  In most marriages, the spouses offer each other more good than bad, but too often we take the good for granted.

The hard truth is that at this very moment your lover could decide that you are not worth any further effort.  You have no power over the decisions your partner makes, and demanding something that he or she does not wish to give is an unenforceable rule.  Our vulnerability to our lovers’ whims makes forgiving them hard, and that is what makes relationships so difficult.  Once we have been hurt, we fear that they could hurt us again.  We worry that they might not change for the better and could even change for the worse.

The overlooked upside is that we are vulnerable to their goodness as well.  And once we start to look, we realize all the good our lovers do.  At the end of the day, the only thing we have power over is how much we ourselves do to help the marriage; we cannot control our lovers’ actions.  The best thing we can do is to use our power to appreciate our lovers so that we have many reasons to forgive them their trespasses and flaws.  You can dramatically improve your chances for success in your relationship if you simply give thanks for being loved numerous times each day.  Try to notice the little things your lover does every day to make the relationship work.  Be thankful for every day he or she tolerates you with all your quirks and wounds.  You want to see your partner’s goodness and forgiveness and honor the effort he or she makes to care for you.  Try to notice your lover’s strengths and good points and kind actions as often as possible.  Tell your lover how lucky you are that he or she chose you for a partner and continues to choose you every single day.

Your marriage will also be helped if you appreciate the gifts of your life together.  Be proud of your home and revel in the bounty of food and clothing and shelter you share.  Honor the achievements of your children and praise your partner for his input and effort.  It is important to realize the preciousness of life and never take it for granted.  Waking up next to a person who loves you is a blessing, so don’t just rush by it.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 130-131

Misplaced Attention

The thing that cripples relationships is focusing more on their flaws than on their loving or their goodness.  This misplaced attention makes no sense and underlies many of our difficulties with forgiveness.

Every spouse has enormous good to offer the other one; when we don’t pay attention to those gifts, we can kill the marriage.  We ignore the endless piles of laundry she cleans and folds, the jobs he goes to year after year, the ongoing effort she makes to tolerate our flaws.  Our anger blinds us to the ways in which our partner overcame his childhood difficulties to be a productive person, her simple dignity in how she acts under stress, or what a loving father he is.  We miss both the small indications of love we regularly receive and the larger moments that sustain our lives.  The list of our lover’s good qualities is endless and limited only by our effort and imagination.  We take our lovers and relationships for granted and do not notice our blessings until something goes wrong….

Love suffers when we focus on our partners’ difficult traits and problematic behaviors to the exclusion of their beauty and goodness.  We accentuate our painful experiences when we focus our attention on difficult traits.  By focusing on what is wrong, we immediately put stress into our bodies and minds.  By taking our partners’ good qualities for granted and focusing on their errors and flaws, we create more stress in our lives and relationships….  What brings love to our relationship and sows the seeds for forgiveness is simple:  appreciating absolutely everything we can about the person we are with each and every day.  There is nothing simpler to do, and no more powerful gift you can offer to your partner.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 128-130