I had just arrived home after a tiring day of juggling work and school. My boys came running in for dinner. Their faces bore a thin film of dirt, but it couldn't hide their grins. As they went upstairs to wash their hands, my third son, age 5, trailed behind.
“Today was a great day!” he beamed. “I didn’t even get hit by any poop.”
Further questioning revealed they had waged a stale manure war against each other in the neighbor’s vacant horse pasture. While his cheerful response made me chuckle, it has also since made me think about perspective. Is life, as the old adage goes, really all about how you take it?
We live in an age where there are so many things that can, like gravity, pull us down emotionally. We turn on the news to see reports on war, natural disasters, and crime sprees. Maybe we are dealing with addictions or failing marriages. Maybe we feel overworked or are just tired of the routine. Life can be hard. But we can do hard things. We can get out of the ruts and we can remind ourselves that, as bad as the day has been, at least we “didn’t get hit by any poop.” And even if we did, at least it wasn’t by a bigger pile!
How do we do it? In my experience, there are three things you can do to reverse the polarity of your emotions.
Ask for help, and be helped
Often, at the root of sorrow lies self-pity. To defeat self-pity, we must force ourselves to “un-isolate,” and confide in someone we trust. Through their eyes and perspective, we will be able to see more clearly the problems as well as the fixes.
Write your gratitude
Step one helped us analyze the problem. Step two is about putting it on the shelf and shifting focus. Don’t just make a mental note of your blessings — write them down so they're sealed into both mind and heart. Look back on this list and add to it regularly. Verbally express your gratitude. This can be tough to do at a time when we don't fell particularly grateful, but it will get easier. In proportion to the effort exerted, our sense of joy and acceptance will increase.
Help someone else
Just as self-pity is at the core of sorrow, selfishness is the heart of self-pity. If we are to conquer our down days and attitudes, we must turn our attention to others. Nothing will change an outlook faster. Thinking of “me” weighs us down. It is exhausting. But just as naturally as the law of gravity pulls down at objects, helping people in need raises both them and us up.
Gravity is a natural and essential phenomenon by which all things are kept grounded. Similarly, sometimes we go through trials for no other reason than to keep us grounded. Everything that happens to us — both good and bad — happens to us for a reason. But the bad things do not have to keep us down. If poop starts flying, get out of the way! If it hits you, wipe it off and be grateful it wasn’t worse. This altered perspective is freeing. No longer burdened by unnecessary emotional gravity, you will see things from a weightless new perspective.
William A. Donne struggled through sixteen years of pornography addiction before discovering the keys to recovery. With the help of his wife, Mae, they were not only able to save their marriage but make it better. We Will End the Conflict Now, their book about recovery and healing for husbands and wives, is due out in June 2013.