When my husband and I first got married, I made a big mistake.
He surprised me by washing the dishes after a big meal when I was too tired to look at the kitchen anymore. The next day when I walked in expecting a pile of dishes in the sink, I lit up at the joy of seeing the plates neatly lined up in the dish rack. A few hugs later, I went to put them away when I noticed that they were still greasy and not really clean at all.
So I told him: “These plates are still dirty. We can’t use them. I’ll have to wash them again.” And there, my friends, I reveal my tragic mistake!
Granted, I merely stated the truth. But 15 years later, he still doesn’t want to do the dishes. The war wound still traumatizes him.
It has taken me a while to realize that the truth doesn’t always need to be shared. And when you do, it’s important how you say it. But there’s even more to it than that.
In many years of mishaps and blunders, I am learning to stop looking for what’s wrong and zero in on what’s right.
Like an artist who captures what is there or who creates from the negative space, both options are viable yet the picture that develops looks quite different.
Sometimes, it’s about catching people doing something good, rather than seeking what’s missing, out of place, or could have been done better. Sure, life can appear like a comedy of errors, but it’s amazing how much great stuff I miss out on when I’m drawing from the negative space.
For me, that can mean that when the kids are playing beautifully, I take the time to tell them, “Wow, I notice that you’re really enjoying this game together. I love how nicely you’re sharing,” rather than only paying attention when I need to break up a fight. Or when we go to the beach, instead of being scared that someone could get hurt, I enjoy the way they are splashing around in the ocean and having fun.
My husband got on board too. When our family gathers at the dinner table, he often remarks, “This is so nice! I love sitting here with all of you.” Because those moments are so nice and beg for recognition. It doesn’t matter how much the kids roll their eyes. It’s still clear that a part of them loves hearing those affirming words.
I find that I perform better through encouragement and support rather than criticism. And so do others.
Now when my husband helps out in the kitchen, I appreciate that he’s there, and I comment about what’s right. I too learn my lessons—even though it took me 5,475 days of dirty dishes later.