Doug often teases me (Jim) and says that I have a way of weaving a certain theme into just about every message I give. It’s what I call “thank therapy.” It’s my life message, so I confess that I’m a bit fanatical about it. But I’m okay being teased about it as long as you grasp this life-changing idea. The practice of gratitude has become the key to who I am as a person and has definitely been the foundation of my forty-plus-year marriage to Cathy.
Thank therapy is simply focusing on what you can be thankful for rather than what you could complain about. I challenge people to develop the daily habit of writing down twenty reasons why they’re thankful. I know it sounds like a lot, but coming up with tenty reasons is the secret sauce that forces you into a more positive mindset. This discipline isn’t a magic wand to eliminate your negative circumstances, but it is magical in how quickly it works to change your attitude. It’s nearly impossible to feel both grateful and negative at the same time. Thank therapy works for me, it works for Doug (even though he teases me), and it will work for you and your marriage. Thankfulness wins over negativity.
A few years ago, Cathy and I took a most romantic trip up the coast of California to the beautiful beach town of Carmel. Our time together was simply enchanting. It was filled with long walks along the breathtaking coast, intimate conversations over lingering meals, and the freedom of extended times of romance. Really, it was all so stunning!
As we prepared to drive back home along the Pacific Coast Highway, we reflected on how wonderful our time had been and how it had refueled our relationship. Driving down the winding road along the cliffs, we saw dolphins playing in the ocean and majestic birds highlighting the beauty of God’s creation. Then out of nowhere, Cathy looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “Jim, I think you’re getting a double chin!”
Immediately the dolphins disappeared, the majestic birds flew away, and all that scenic beauty transformed into an emotion called hurt.
I’m not sure what Cathy was expecting me to say in response, but believe me, I was not only hurt; I was angry. My default response to being hurt is to go quiet, and I got very quiet—double-chin quiet. I didn’t speak for forty-five minutes as we continued driving. Cathy seemed so engrossed in the beautiful scenery that I’m not even sure she noticed my silent, passive-aggressive behavior. As she was whistling, I was stewing … until I heard the “still, small voice” in my head that I needed to practice gratefulness. It was time for thank therapy.
So with gritted teeth and a double chin, I silently prayed, Thank You for Cathy, even if she thinks I’m getting fat. I then added, And thank You for the incredible time we had. Thank You for the wonderful mother Cathy is to our girls. Thank You for giving her to me as the most amazing partner in our ministry to families … And the list grew. After naming about twenty reasons I was grateful for Cathy, I leaned toward her, gave her a kiss, and said, “I love you, Cathy!”
She looked at me with a smirk and said, “Oh, I thought you were mad at me because I mentioned you’re getting a double chin.”
For the moment at least, the practice of thankfulness worked for me, and it will work for you too.