My mother-in-law lived with our family for twenty years. For six of those years, my mother also lived with us. Corlette and I called them “the Two Treasures.”
In all the years they lived in our home, I never heard one word of criticism, grumbling, or complaining from either of them. Really. They were that gracious.
Even when the pain of Parkinson’s, broken hips, and other troubles became a daily challenge, they were both amazingly cheerful and positive. They didn’t talk of their pains unless we pressed them. They rarely sighed, moaned, or looked downcast, even when we knew they were suffering.
Yes, as they grew older they did take more of our time and attention. When they gave up their cars, Corlette became their driver. Whenever they needed to see the doctor, she, my sister, or my brother sat through every appointment. When they needed financial, tax, or other legal assistance, I was their in-house attorney.
But when we needed baby-sitters, someone to chat with, funny stories from the past, wisdom and encouragement , or lively companions for a visit to Disney World, the Treasures were there, blessing us with so much more than we could possibly give to them.
They didn’t wait until their twilight years to develop these pleasant qualities. Each of them had cultivated a cheerful attitude from their earliest days. They made it a habit to be grateful for what they had instead of grumbling about what they lacked.
These winsome qualities continued to serve them well when failing health finally forced each of them into a nursing home. They were still so considerate that whenever they rang their buzzers, aides scurried to win the privilege of caring for them.
We and many others were the daily beneficiaries of their pleasant ways. Now that they are gone, we miss them intensely. Our home seems so empty without them.
How About You?
What kind of relational habits are you cultivating today? Will your core attitudes serve you and your family well when your body and mind begin to fail and you become increasingly dependent on others? Will you be viewed as a treasure or as a trial in the last season of your life?
Today is the day to begin building gracious attitudes and behaviors into your life so that when the veneer of “company manners” is worn away, what shines through is pure gold. Here are a few simple habits taught in Scripture that will make you easier to live with … both today and down the road.
- Eliminate grumbling, whining, and complaining from your life, as well as the sighing and moaning that seems to say, “Feel sorry for me” (Phil. 2:14). If you’re hurting and need help, prayer, or encouragement, say so directly and graciously. But don’t unload your problems aimlessly and hopelessly on those around you (2 Cor. 1:3-7).
- See and celebrate God’s many goodnesses to you. Develop a keen eye for all the mercies and kindnesses God pours into your life, and never miss an opportunity to say “thank you” to him and to the people through whom he blesses you (Ps. 16:5-11; 1 Thess. 5:16-18).
- Look for the best in every person and situation. If you look for the good in others, you will usually find it. If you are watching for the bad, you’ll usually experience that instead (Prov. 11:27). Be so affirming of others that they simply love being around you; they will if you always make them feel good about what God is doing through them (Phil. 4:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
- Smile. Don’t waste the only face you’ve got on blank or somber expressions. Develop the habit of smiling as you walk into the kitchen in the morning, as you greet co-workers throughout the day, as you walk past others in the grocery store in the afternoon. A simple smile and friendly greeting from you can dramatically change another person’s day (Prov. 12:25; Prov. 15:13).
The Fruit of the Gospel
These attitudes and habits are the fruit of our salvation in Christ. Whenever people are deeply and constantly aware of God’s saving grace, their lives can be marked with joy, thanksgiving, gladness, and overflowing acts of love and kindness (Phil. 4:4-7; Col. 3:12-17).
So dwell much on all that God has done for you in Christ. Let the joy of your salvation inspire and embed habits that will make you pleasant to live with today and tomorrow.
And someday when your kids are fighting about you, it won’t be over who has to care for you, but who gets to care for you.
Reflection Questions (Most effective when shared with a friend; James 1:22-25)
- When you experience stress or disappointment, are you inclined to maintain a cheerful attitude or to grumble, whine or complain? For a more accurate answer to that question, ask those closest to you how they would honestly describe your response to difficulty.
- If God was to remove from your life everything you’ve not thanked him for in the past month, what would you lose?
- What are some things you failed to thank others for in the past week? Go and thank them today!
- What characteristic will you ask God to help you change in order to make you a person others enjoy being around … both today and toward the end of your life?
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© 2013 Ken Sande
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