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Small things can bring peace to chaos

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Question: I’m very discouraged about what I see in our country. So many problems; so much animosity and negativity. But it’s all so big. What can one person do?

Jim: Let’s use a simple analogy. Say you’re in a public bathroom drying your hands when you see a used paper towel on the floor. Do you pick it up and throw it in the trash?

I’m not exactly a “germophobe,” but who knows where that thing has been or what it’s touched?

For the most part, society isn’t transformed by sweeping changes very often. Cultural change usually comes as a result of small things you and I do every day at the grassroots level. We see problems in our communities – big and small. Do we ignore them because we don’t want to touch them? What if it contaminates us? Let somebody else handle it.

How many times have we walked by and ignored what we see? The problem is, everybody else wants to ignore the problem, too. It’s not long before one stray paper towel becomes a bathroom so filthy you don’t want to use it.

A famous quote often attributed to Irish statesman Edmund Burke says: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Few of us have the power to change the world, but we can all do small, positive things every day that bring peace into chaos. We can all do something to make our corner of the world a better place to be. We can all replace the truly ugly with something beautiful. We can all offer something good to replace what’s bad.

If we each just “pick up a paper towel,” we’ll start to clean things up. And it begins with a piece of 2,000-year-old wisdom: Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself.

Question: My husband and I disagree at times, just like all couples. We’ve been taught that as long as we each win our share of the arguments, we’ll keep things in balance. Sometimes his way, sometimes hers. Do you agree?

Greg Smalley, vice president, family ministries: Actually, I don’t agree. Here’s why: If you’re playing a game, keeping score is the only way to determine a winner. But in a marriage, scorekeeping is destructive. When a relationship is defined by “winners” and “losers,” it’s only a matter of time before things fall apart.

Scorekeepers are easy to spot in a conflict. Their goal is to win. They don’t compromise, respect their spouse’s point of view or resolve issues in a way that benefits the relationship. Their secret to finding happiness is to make certain everything goes their way.

To do that, scorekeepers measure the relationship. They keep a running tally of how well their spouse is doing in the marriage. And if the scorekeeper doesn’t feel happy, they blame their spouse, criticize their every move and demand the spouse change to accommodate the scorekeeper’s wishes.

But instead of a nurturing relationship that benefits both spouses, scorekeeping turns the marriage into a competition. It sets the couple against each other. Conflicts don’t resolve issues; they declare a winner.

It’s impossible for a marriage to thrive when it becomes a battleground where somebody wins and somebody loses.

At its heart, marriage is about compromise and mutual sacrificial love. Don’t think you can build a thriving marriage by manipulating your spouse to get your way.

You have to tear up the scorecard and focus on loving and serving one another. Think “team”: Resolve issues in a way that benefits both of you. If you need help working this out, I invite you to call our staff counselors at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family. Catch up with him at or at www. © 2019 Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995.