IT’S ALL SMALL STUFF
What follows is taken in large part from an excellent little book Don't sweat the small stuff... and it's all small stuff written by Richard Carlson, PH.D. Dr. Carlson discusses one hundred "Simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life." I strongly recommend a copy of this fine book for your personal library.
Previously I preached about love being the foundation for the fruits of the Spirit. My key verse was Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law.
Today I hope to provide some thoughts and techniques that will help in realizing love in our lives and enjoying the fruits of the Spirit. The following scriptures came to mind as I was preparing this follow-up to my last sermon
A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7
For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 2 Peter 2:19
Speaking of men, "Time and chance happen to them all." Ecclesiates 9:11
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20
1. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF - There are many “small stuff” examples that occur everyday in our lives. Whether we had to wait in line, listen to unfair criticism or do the lion’s share of the work, it pays enormous dividends if we learn to not sweat the small stuff. You will have far more energy to be kinder and gentler.
2. CONSIDER WHO GETS HURT AND WHO IS BEING SERVED AND WHO IS BEING EMPOWERED. More often than not we hurt ourselves and those we love. Is that what we want! In the case of strangers and adversaries our actions angry reactions only serve to satisfy their desire to see us upset. Is that what we want!
3. MAKE PEACE WITH IMPERFECTION - Whether it’s related to ourselves, a disorganized closet, a scratch on the car, an imperfect accomplishment, a few pounds we would like to lose, or someone else’s “imperfections,” the very act of focusing on imperfection pulls us away from our goal of being kind and gentle. Yes, you should try to be your best but that includes learning to accept what we cannot change.
4. BE AWARE OF THE SNOWBALL EFFECT OF YOUR THINKING - It is important to be aware of how quickly your negative and insecure thinking can spiral out of control. The more absorbed you get in the details of whatever is upsetting you, the worse you feel. The solution is to catch your thoughts before they have a chance to build up momentum.
5. REMIND YOURSELF THAT WHEN YOU DIE, YOUR “IN BASKET” WON’T BE EMPTY - Your “in basket” is meant to have items in it to be completed and not meant to be empty. There are always calls to make, work to do, projects to complete. We stay up late, get up early, avoid having, fun, and keep our loved ones waiting. The purpose of life isn’t to get it all done but to enjoy each step along the way and live a life filled with love. Remember, when you die, the work will still be there.
6. DON’T INTERRUPT OTHERS OR FINISH THEIR SENTENCES - When you hurry someone by finishing their sentence you speed up their speech and their thinking. This makes both of you nervous, irritable, and annoyed. People resent someone who doesn’t listen to what they are saying. How can you listen to someone when you are speaking for them?
7. DO SOMETHING NICE FOR SOMEONE ELSE — AND DON’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT - When we share our own niceness with someone else, it makes us feel like we are thoughtful people. Moreover, we almost always mention our acts of kindness to someone else, secretly seeking approval, or wanting others to look up to us for our goodness rather than enjoying the simple joy that comes from giving.
8. SHARE THE GLORY - What happens to our spirit when we cease needing all the attention and let others have the glory is something magical. The need for excessive attention is the ego-centered part of us that says “Look at me. I’m special.” The ego is that part of you that wants to be seen, heard, respected, considered special, often at the expense of someone else. It’s the part of us that interrupts someone else’s story, or impatiently waits it’s turn to speak so that it can bring the conversation and attention back to itself. Everyone of us has engaged in this habit to some degree. It is a difficult habit to break. But the next time someone is telling a story, rather than jumping right in and saying, “Once I did the same thing,” or “Guess what I did today,” bite your tongue and notice what happens. Try saying “That’s wonderful,” or “Please tell me more.”
9. LEARN TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT - Many of us have mastered the neurotic art of spending much of our lives worrying about a variety of things. Our past problems, our future concerns, what may or may not happen today. John Lennon once said, “Life is what’s happening while we’re busy making other plans.” Think about it. When we’re busy making “other plans,” our children grow up, people we love are moving away and dying, our bodies are getting older and our dreams are slipping away, and we are missing out on life. Now is the only time we have. Practice keeping your attention on the here and now. The Bible tells us that today’s problems are sufficient for today.
10. LET OTHERS BE
“RIGHT” MOST OF THE TIME - A very important question to ask yourself is “Do
I want to be right — or do I want to be happy?” Needing to be right, or needing
someone else to be wrong encourages others to become defensive. Many people,
consciously or unconsciously, believe that it’s somehow their job to show
others how their positions, statements, points of view are incorrect; and that
in doing so, that person should somehow appreciate it, or at least learn
something. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Learn to voice an opinion without correcting. People will become less defensive and you will learn from each other. You don’t have to sacrifice your beliefs or heartfelt opinions. You do, however, need to learn to communicate them at a level of conversational exchange rather than, because I’m right — you have to be wrong.
11. CHOOSE BEING KIND OVER BEING RIGHT - You have chances to point out to others their mistakes, things they could or should have done differently, and ways they can improve. But, should you? If the answer is yes then do it privately and caringly.
12. BECOME MORE PATIENT - Impatience is not in line with the Biblical principle of putting others before yourself. You could be stuck in a traffic jam, late for an appointment, waiting for a child to awkwardly dress himself when you’re in a hurry. Patience affirms the importance of others and adds a dimension of ease and peace to your life.
13. PRACTICE PATIENCE - Patience can be greatly enhanced with deliberate practice. Life itself is your classroom. You can start with just five minutes a day and build up from there. Start by saying “Okay, for the next five minutes I won’t allow myself to become impatient with anyone.” You will be amazed, especially if you know it is only for a short while, that immediately your capacity for patience is strengthened.
14. PRACTICE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS - A bumper sticker says “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty.” Practicing random acts of kindness is an effective way to get in touch with the joy of giving without expecting anything in return. ($2.00 toll bridge story)
15. PRACTICE HUMILITY - The less compelled you are to try to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peaceful inside. Proving yourself is a dangerous trap. It takes an enormous amount of energy to be continually pointing out your worth as a human being. Ironically, the less you care about seeking approval, the more approval you seem to get. People are drawn to those with a quiet, inner confidence.
16. PRACTICE IGNORING YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS - The average mind has around 50,000 thoughts per day. You’re going to have negative thoughts — you are — it’s what you choose to do with that negative thought that makes the difference.
17. REMEMBER THAT YOU BECOME WHAT YOU PRACTICE MOST - You can choose to bring forth in yourself qualities of compassion, patience, kindness, humility, and peace. Whatever you practice most is what you will become.
18. BE THE FIRST ONE TO ACT LOVING OR REACH OUT - Stubbornly, we wait for someone else to reach out to us, believing this is the only way we can forgive or rekindle a friendship or family relationship. Whenever we hold on to our anger, we turn “small stuff” into really “big stuff” in our minds. If you want to be more peaceful you must understand that being right is almost never more important than being happy. The way to be happy is to let go, and reach out.
19. SURRENDER TO THE FACT THAT LIFE ISN’T FAIR - We spend a lot of time wallowing and/or complaining about what’s wrong with life. We complain about all the injustices of life with others. “It’s just not fair,” we say, not realizing that, it was never intended to be. As the rain falls on the just and the unjust, so does the storm fall. Knowing that it is not “life’s job” to make everything perfect let you know that it is your own challenge. It is not the hand that life has dealt you that counts, it is how you use that hand that counts.
20. REPEAT TO YOURSELF, “LIFE ISN’T AN EMERGENCY” - The first step in becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, we’ve created our own emergencies. Life will usually go on if things don’t go according to plan.
21. EXPERIMENT WITH YOUR BACK BURNER - Using your back burner simply means allowing your mind to solve a problem while you are busy doing something else. Consider how large problems often become small if we just, "Sleep on it."
22. SET ASIDE QUIET TIME, EVERY DAY - There is something rejuvenating and peaceful about being alone and having some time to reflect, pray, or simply enjoy the quiet. It helps balance the noise and confusion that infiltrate much of our day.
23. SPEND A MOMENT EVERY DAY THINKING OF SOMEONE TO THANK - Try to remember, at the start of each day, someone to thank. As you think of people to be grateful for, you will find gratitude and love will replace resentments and frustrations.
24. EVERY DAY, TELL AT LEAST ONE PERSON SOMETHING YOU LIKE, ADMIRE, OR APPRECIATE ABOUT THEM - Do you remember to tell people how much you like, admire, or appreciate them? There are several reasons why we don’t vocally let others know about our positive feelings toward them. Whether your reason for not giving compliments on a regular basis is not knowing what to say, embarrassment, or feeling that other people already know how you feel, it’s time for a change.
25. TELL SOMEONE (EACH DAY) HOW MUCH YOU LOVE THEM - “If you had an hour to live and could make only one phone call —who would you call, what would you say, and why are you waiting?” Stephen Levine. Perhaps we want to believe we will live forever, or that someday we will get around to telling the people we love how much we love them. Whatever the reason, most of us simply wait too long.
26. SMILE AT STRANGERS, LOOK INTO THEIR EYES, AND SAY HELLO - You probably have noticed how little eye contact most of us have with strangers. I really don’t know why this is, but I do know there is a parallel between our attitude toward strangers and our overall level of happiness. Most other people are just like us — they have families, people they love, troubles, concerns, likes, dislikes, fears, and so forth. You’ll notice how nice and grateful people can be when you’re the first one to reach out.
27. BECOME A BETTER LISTENER - Effective listening is more that simply avoiding the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. It’s being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond.
28. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND - Simply means that you become more interested in understanding others and less in having other people understand you. Seeking first to understand isn’t about who’s right or wrong; it is a philosophy of effective communication.
29. SEARCH FOR THE GRAIN OF TRUTH IN OTHER OPINIONS - One of the destructive things that many of us do, is compare someone else’s opinion to our own. And when it doesn’t fall in line with our belief, we either dismiss it or find fault with it. We feel smug, the other person feels diminished, and we learn nothing.
30. BECOME AWARE OF YOUR MOODS AND DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE FOOLED BY THE LOW ONES - Moods can be extremely deceptive. When you’re in a good mood, life looks great. Your relationships seem to flow and communication is easy. If you are criticized you take it in stride. People don’t realize their moods are always on the run. Such quick and drastic contrasts may seem absurd, even funny, but people are like that. We experience identical circumstances; who we are married to, where we work, the car we drive, our potential, our childhood — all entirely differently, depending on our mood! The next time you feel low, for whatever reason, remind yourself, “This too shall pass.” And it will.
31. BE GRATEFUL WHEN YOU’RE FEELING GOOD AND GRACEFUL WHEN YOU’RE FEELING BAD - Often the difference between a person who is happy and someone who is unhappy isn’t how often they get low, or even how low they drop, but instead, it’s what they do with their low moods. How do they relate to their changing feelings?
32. WHEN IN DOUBT ABOUT WHOSE TURN IT IS TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH, GO AHEAD AND TAKE IT OUT - It is really difficult to become a contented person if you’re keeping score of all you do. Keeping track only discourages you by cluttering your mind with who’s doing what, who’s doing more, and so forth.
33. REMEMBER THAT EVERYTHING HAS GOD’S FINGERPRINTS ON IT - Our task as humans is to find holiness in what appears to be unholy situations. It is easy to see God’s beauty in the beautiful. But when we can learn to find the holiness in seemingly ugly circumstances — difficult life lessons, a family tragedy, or a struggle for life — surely we will also see God’s fingerprints there.
34. RESIST THE URGE TO CRITICIZE - Remember, when you judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical. The solution is to stop each time you catch yourself in the act of being critical. Hopefully, more often than not, it will turn your criticism into tolerance and respect.
35. RELAX - Being relaxed involves training yourself to respond differently to the dramas of life.
36. BREATHE BEFORE YOU SPEAK - Is a simple strategy with remarkable results. It involves just pausing — breathing — after the person to whom you are speaking is finished.
37. THINK OF WHAT YOU HAVE INSTEAD OF WHAT YOU WANT - The mind-set that says “I’ll be happy when this desire is fulfilled” is the same mind-set that will repeat itself once that desire is met.
38. BE HAPPY WHERE YOU ARE - Many of us continually postpone our happiness. We keep convincing ourselves, “Someday I’ll be happy.” Meanwhile, life keeps moving forward. There is no better time to be happy than right now.
39. BE WILLING TO LEARN FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY - Because the people closest to us know us the best, they’re sometimes able to see ways in which we are acting in a self-defeating manner and can offer very simple solutions. When we are too proud or stubborn to learn, we lose out.
40. THINK OF YOUR PROBLEMS AS POTENTIAL TEACHERS - Problems come in many shapes, sizes, and degrees of seriousness, but all have one thing in common: They present us with something that we wish were different. Let them become teachers.
41. STOP BLAMING OTHERS AND ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY - There is a tendency to blame others for our anger, frustrations, depression, stress, and unhappiness. Circumstances don’t make a person, they reveal a person.
42. IF SOMEONE THROWS YOU THE BALL, YOU DON’T HAVE TO CATCH IT - Often our inner struggles come from our tendency to jump on board someone else’s problem. Someone throws you a concern and you assume you must catch it, and respond. Then later, you feel stressed or resentful that you are behind schedule and that everyone seems to be making demands on you. It’s easy to lose sight of your willing participation in their problems. If you don’t want to be a part of someone else’s problems, they will find someone else to get involved.
43. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS - Even in private. How often do you find yourself saying things like, “I wouldn’t do that if I were her,” or “I can’t believe he did that,” or “What is she thinking about?” Minding your own business goes far beyond trying to solve other people’s problems. It also involves eavesdropping, gossiping, talking behind other people’s back, and analyzing or trying to figure out other people. Often we look at others shortcomings so we don’t have to look at our own.
44. LOOK FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY IN THE ORDINARY - We see in life what we want to see. If you search for ugliness that is what you will find.