Last year presented many opportunities to learn and grow. As I complete my goal setting and prepare for 2014, several of the lessons I’ve learned stand out.
The perfect is the enemy of the good
I’ve become familiar with the veracity of this aphorism courtesy of my tendency to be a perfectionist. I’ll often tinker with work that is sufficiently good in an attempt to perfect it. Sometimes this tinkering results in the exact opposite of my aim—it will damage or even ruin my work! To add insult to injury, I’ll frequently have wasted exorbitant amounts of time on the tinkering. It’s often better to leave perfectly good work alone than to risk ruining it by attempting to make it perfect.
I’m most judgmental of others when I see my weaknesses in them
It is on days that I didn’t complete my morning workout that I find it easiest to judge others for not exercising. It is on days when I was busy and skipped my Bible reading that I find it easiest to judge others for not reading the Bible. It is on days that I have laundry baskets overflowing with dirty clothes that I find it easiest to judge others for not keeping their homes clean. Do you see the pattern here? It took a little time, but I can now see that I’m tempted to pass judgment on others when I see in them the same weaknesses with which I struggle. If I would acknowledge our mutual struggles instead, perhaps the resulting camaraderie could be a springboard for accountability and change.
Use the special things
I tend to put off using special things out of concern that I’ll wear them out, use them up, or break them. After outgrowing my favorite pair of pants—pants that I rarely wore because I wanted to keep them in good shape—I realized that I don’t want fear of being without treasured possessions to cripple me. I want to use the good dishes, burn the lovely candles, and wear the beautiful dresses so these possessions will enhance my life and the lives of my loved ones.
Since moving to the DC metro area over one year ago, I’ve noticed that days will pass without the sun breaking through the clouds. No, that’s not figurative speech to describe the gloominess of the political climate here (though it is quite bleak). According to NOAA, the area where I lived previously (Waco, TX) had 130 sunny days per year. Where I live now has only 96 sunny days per year. No wonder I feel like it is dark all the time! Sometimes my outlook mirrors the gloom, so it’s important to get out (even if just briefly) and enjoy the sun when it does shine.
Mutual spiritual growth in marriage isn’t automatic
My husband and I found that attending church and praying together on occasion were insufficient for warding off spiritual stagnancy in our marriage. We’ve been intentional about engaging in activities that help bolster our growth (e.g., reading together, giving generously, reaching out to our neighbors). I love feeling spiritually close to my husband!
Sometimes I’m a really bad listener
I hate to acknowledge this, but sometimes I’ll be distracted by something relatively unimportant while my husband shares a story or talks about something he’s recently read or learned. I’ll realize as he wraps up what he’s been sharing that I have little memory of what he’s said. He is so much more important than the various things I allow to distract me! This is a habit I’m working to break.
Elbow grease is great for cleaning
Hard manual labor, commonly referred to as elbow grease, seems archaic amidst the fancy cleaning equipment and specialized products that are available today. However, I’ve noticed this year that it can rival and even surpass many of these in effectiveness. It’s also free!
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
Though scientists debate the literal accuracy of this old adage, I have found its proverbial meaning to be quite true. I’m generally a nice person, but on occasion, namely when I’m left on hold on the phone for an extended time or I have to wait in line at the Motor Vehicle Administration for several hours, I can get a little grumpy and be curt with the individuals with whom I finally speak. In these moments, a gentle, kind tone goes far in engendering favor. Perhaps this is because speaking kindly is an act of obedience (Ephesians 4:29).
What have you learned during 2013? Share about these lessons in the comments section below.