Sometimes I enjoy just sitting back and watching my dog, Ramsey, and my husband, Eric, play together. Eric likes to roughhouse with her, which she loves, but in the process she gets her ears flipped up, fur matted down, and tail tucked in a number of ways. When she’s ready to stop playing, she jumps down, shakes herself off (flipping her ears down and getting her fur back in place) and moves on to the next activity. Sometimes we playfully agitate her to get a reaction (e.g., she always jerks her head when we blow on her face). Afterwards, she gets up, and shakes herself off. Once again, she smiles at us with her tail wagging a mile a minute. Sometimes she gets in trouble and has to spend time alone in her crate. After a while, we let her out, she shakes herself off, and she is ready to run and play once again.
One thing about Ramsey that makes her so lovable is her ability to let things go. Many dogs are good at this. They rarely hold grudges and they love us in spite of our mountains of faults. I heard a prayer once that said, “God, please make me the person my dog thinks I am.” When I leave her crated for several hours while I run errands, she doesn’t despise me when I return. Instead, she sees me, wags her tail wildly, and impatiently awaits her release. In short, she sees the good in me and shakes off the bad.
While I understand that dogs and human beings have many differences in their biological and psychological makeup, I still feel compelled to learn from her at times. She’s a happy creature. She’s content just to be loved. Eric has commented before that he would love for me to be as excited to see him as Ramsey always is when he comes home from work. Some days, for fun, I greet him at the door with Ramsey and we both make a huge deal about him being home for the day (I even shake all over like Ramsey does). It may seem silly, but it always plants a huge smile on Eric’s face. Men love to be appreciated upon coming home from work and dogs are sure to do just that. I think we ladies also can certainly learn from that! ~smile~
Too many times, especially early in dating relationships and marriage, we are quick to let small things plant bitterness in our hearts. A short, harsh spoken word or a poorly toned statement, if not uprooted quickly, can grow a wilderness of weeds. Eric and I have considerably different personalities. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a couple more different than us. Because of this, we often see things very differently.
Early in our marriage, Eric, not being used to unconditionally loving a wife, would occasionally speak sharply to me. Me, not being used to unconditionally respecting a husband, would occasionally roll my eyes or speak to him with contempt in my voice. In those days, I took every small thing to heart. I felt that I had the right to be angry at all of his transgressions. After all, I was a woman and should be treated as a treasure. The former may be true, but that did not give me the right to disregard Eric every time I perceived an injustice in our relationship. The more I came to realize what I really deserved without Christ’s redemption, the less I felt I had a right to hold everything against him. Additionally, I started looking at my actions through his eyes, and I realized how difficult I was to live with when I reacted to him disrespectfully. Not only was I sorry, but I was embarrassed. A contemptuous woman is not beautiful, regardless of her body type, style, or facial features.
As the years pass, we are learning when to confront each other and when to shake things off. Sometimes situations need to be discussed. If they eat at us for a while, they probably need to be talked about and resolved. If they go away on their own after a little time to think about it, then it is not necessary to bring them up – just apply grace and let is pass. We have recommended to our clients to keep a running tab for per week of the negative things that have arisen and apply grace in the short term. At the end of each week, review the list – most things won’t matter by week’s end and you can cross them off; however, if it is still a big deal, then set aside some time to talk about it. Either way, you’re not talking out of anger in the moment and the aforementioned suggestion will greatly reduce the continual criticism that can otherwise become an unfortunate habit.
When we were first married, I would have taken every agitated grunt personally without understanding his limitations. For example, when Eric goes several days without getting enough sleep, he can be uncharacteristically grouchy. I know now not to take his words seriously when he’s that tired – and now, more than ever, I’m shaking things off. It’s still tempting to play the victim role and allow myself to continue feeling hurt, but all it does is bring me down, and ultimately, our marriage down. When Eric does deeply hurt me, I do go to him and let him know. When I hurt him, he lets me know. However, we’ve learned to start letting go of the little things. We live together with so much more peace now that we’ve learned to shake ourselves off! You too can start the habit and shake it off!
Do you need to start doing a better job in shaking it off?