The other day I put various digital images I had together in a word document. The pictures were of some of my mentors, my family, the house I grew up in, my favorite retreat center, etcetera. In short, they are pictures of things for which I’m thankful. It’s a powerful practice to keep all the things we are thankful for before us in our minds, in images we look at regularly…
I was recently reading a book by Roberta Gilbert on Family Systems or Bowen Systems as it is variously called. One of the keys of Family Systems work is what is called “focusing on the healing resources.” When organizations, churches included, start to degenerate and become less functional is when they spend too much time focusing on the negatives of the organization. The fact is that every person, every relationship, every organization, every church, has negatives. Yet, it is all a question of emphasis. It is all a question of where we shine the spotlight. If we keep the spotlight on an organization’s “healing resources,” the organization gains health and vitality.
My wife and I are working with our four year old son about being conscious of the choices he makes. After he does something praiseworthy, we say “that was a good choice!” “I’m proud of you for making a good choice.” And when he does what we have come to call “naughty” things, we ask him, “was that a good choice?” The road to mature childhood and the road to mature adulthood are all about choices. And this Thanksgiving season I am reminded of what I think is the most important choice of all in terms of individual and collective health and vitality. Do we focus on the negatives and let them eat at us and weigh us down? Or do we focus on the healing resources—the things for which we are thankful?
When we are walking through a neighbor’s garden we can point out the beautiful roses and blooms on their cacti. Or we can point out the weeds. When we’re raising a teen, we can spend most of our time building up the teen and showing interest in the things she is interested in, valuing differences, and keeping critiques to a minimum. Or, we can make regular criticism the norm.
In small towns where 30% of the people are related to one another in some form or another, people are fond of saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, say nothing at all.” This is folk wisdom at its best. We all have liabilities. Why draw attention to one another’s liabilities? It is better to focus on building one another up. And if we are going to shine a search light on imperfections, let’s spare our sisters and brothers and shine the search light within.
Some words from the Apostle Paul: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:8