Tag Archives: acts of kindness

How Can Beauty Save Your Marriage and The World?

daisy by Simon Howden freedigitalpics.netThe famous quote in a Dostoevsky novel that “Beauty will save the world” sounds somehow superficial in today’s society. But I think it’s true. “What kind of beauty?” the characters ask, and the answer seems to be beauty in action, beauty carried out by a person.

In light of the violence, ugliness and evil that seem more prevalent in our society—although I realize they have been with us all along—my mind returns to the idea that beauty can save the world. Maybe beauty can save the family, maybe even your family.

Acts of love are some of the most beautiful and inspiring “things of beauty” that we have to offer this world. I can’t count how many times people shared the photograph of the New York City police officer last month buying shoes and socks for the homeless man who had bare feet. It was an act of kindness; this is beauty in action. We want to be touched. We want to see love in the world.

Instead of looking to our spouse and wondering, “What have you done for me lately?” it would be great if we will instead ask, “What act of beauty and love can I do for my spouse today?” You might even ask, “What act of beauty can we do together for the world today?”

These acts have transformative powers. Not only do you fill another person with love, you transform yourself into a more love-filled person.

Yes, I believe beauty can change the world.

While we don’t want to be in pursuit of materialism, physical beauty can also help transform us. When we watch the sunrise or sunset, or bring home a bouquet of flowers, when we appreciate the beauty of the human body, when we savor beautiful food, read a treasured book, or take in a beautiful work of art, we are uplifted. Even the beauty of music can change our moods almost instantly.

When we find true joy in our faith, when we find intimacy in our relationships, we find beauty.

I don’t want to list a bunch of ideas for how you can carry out acts of love, because you will see the opportunities around you each day if you are not distracted by the “noise” of life, if you are not staring at your smart phone or filling moments of quiet with TV or other media, if you are open to the idea of seeing beauty and wanting to add to it. But please try to find time and energy to bring love and beauty to those in your family, particularly your spouse.

Efficiency won’t change the world. Multitasking won’t change the world. Ever-increasing busy-ness won’t change the world. Yet, as we wrap up 2012, these are constants. When will we seek the quiet moments?

Love in action can be the beauty that saves us.

What is an act of love or a thing of beauty that has caught you in your tracks lately? For me, it has been all the people helping victims in Newtown, CT, and covering them with love.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Simon Howden courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Can Your Mind Change Your World?

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

Entire philosophies and religions have been built upon the idea that by changing our mind, we can change our lives—that the secret to a more prosperous life is just being open to greater prosperity. That believing you have a great marriage will help you get there.

We are inundated with messages from popular psychology telling us how to achieve success without action, but with a new way of thinking (sometimes called New Age thinking). Various books offer new prescriptions. “Pull a few psychic levers, believe the best about yourself, assert yourself, and happiness will be yours,” says the tongue-in-cheek David Myers, PhD, in The Pursuit of Happiness. In fact, just today, I read a post from a counselor stating that we can indeed change our lives using the power of our minds.

I would say we can control our perception of life, and we can even make our lives considerably happier. Our minds, and even our spirits, are powerful. However, we can’t prevent disease and earthquakes or erase evil from the planet.

I would also mention that I disagree with philosophies and religious that suggest the “individual as God” mentality in which we can control the world around us. For people of faith, that is unbiblical. And for people of science, it’s unproven. Certain celebrities promote this way of thinking, and I think it’s tempting for many to think they can gain wealth and influence and achieve their dreams by sitting in their bathrooms and thinking positive thoughts. I do believe we can achieve our dreams, but we have to use our minds and our actions as well as positive thoughts.

We do know the mind can affect our bodies, sometimes dramatically. For example, the placebo effect is well-known: if people think they are taking an effective treatment, their body is more likely to heal, even if they are taking a sugar pill. If doctors can make patients believe they will become well, some of them will become well as a result, even with no other treatment. In addition, optimists have been shown to heal faster after surgery and to respond to stress better than pessimists (responding with smaller blood pressure increases). We know that relaxation, meditation and optimism promote healing, says Myers.

But research has been unable to prove that we can change the world around us with positive thinking (and draw those millions of dollars that we deserve to us)—just as we can’t change our spouse with positive thinking. However, I think that focusing on feelings of gratitude and expressing positive thoughts, while also attempting to act in a more positive manner, can indeed affect those around us, including our spouse. In other words, by “positive acting” not just positive thinking, we can start to change the world around us.

As an example, a friend recently decided to participate in a challenge called 29 Gifts, started by Cami Walker, author of the book by the same name. Each day, my friend gave some kind of gift or act of love to someone she knew, with no expectation of anything in return. You can read about her experience here in Is it Really Better to Give than to Receive? I know about this only because I was one of the recipients of a thoughtful gift and kind note that made my day. Within a month, her decision to act in a positive, loving manner had far-reaching effects for those around her, many of whom were inspired to act similarly.

My point (in life and marriage) is if we become too self-focused, we lose the point of loving those around us. It’s all well and good to try to be more positive, calm, and grateful on our own. But by expressing gratitude (in writing or verbally, or in prayer), or by giving a hug, or by taking a positive action to help our partner with something, or to just be there to listen while he or she talks, we can make a real impact and demonstrate real love. I believe this positive impact will increase our own happiness as well as the happiness of those around us.

Try it for a few days. Do something nice for someone you know, and pay attention to how it makes you feel before and after. Then do something nice for your spouse for a few days and see how it affects your relationship.

Next week, I’ll talk about how the images of how our lives and marriages “should be” can impact our happiness levels.

 Photo credit: ©.shock/PhotoXpress.com

What Have You Done For Your Marriage Today?

The Catholic Church is running public service messages and billboards in different parts of the country asking, “What have you done for your marriage today?” The campaign is aimed at encouraging people to make small investments of time and love in their marriage. Last post, we discussed how it’s so easy to give children all of our time and attention in “Who Gets More of Your Attention—Your Spouse or Your Children?”

Today, we’re looking for solutions and ways to show we care. I’m providing a couple of options—one for the busy slackers like me who often feel overwhelmed with just one additional task, and two other levels for those who want to go the extra mile. For example, one man said after reading about how many women view their bodies, he would post a note on his wife’s mirror saying, “My husband loves my body.” That’s the extra mile.

Try to focus on your spouses’ love language. I’d love for you to contribute your own ideas to these suggestions.

Show Appreciation

Level 1: Before going to sleep, thank your spouse for something he or she regularly does for you or the family. For some people, words of affirmation mean a great deal. You can even send a text or email if that is how you regularly communicate.

Level 2: Buy a card and add a note of appreciation. Leave it under his pillow.

Level 3: Write a note expressing a sincere appreciation for your spouse’s contributions and support. Mail it to work her at work or home.

Give a Gift

Level 1: Pick up a book, movie or other item your honey would enjoy. For those whose love language is gifts, this will make them feel loved. Wrap it lovingly.

Level 2: Add some fun: Plan a scavenger hunt with clues around the house from one point to another until they find the gift. Or fill balloons with cute notes that have hints.

Level 3: Buy something nice for your spouse he wouldn’t buy on his own. Present it at a special time like on a lunch date out.

Show Care

Level 1: Stock up on her favorite beverage and offer one when she is working or relaxing.

Level 2: Prepare his coffee or tea each morning as a sign of care and love.

Level 3: Clean or organize an area of the home that has been driving your spouse crazy (a closet, area of the garage, basement, etc.)

Involve the Senses

Level 1: Bring home some lovely, fragrant flowers or a scented candle or lotion. Or have them delivered to home or work.

Level 2: Bring home her FAVORITE flowers or perfume or his favorite lotion or cologne.

Level 3: Plant some pretty flowers in the yard to enjoy for months and surprise him/her.

Involve Touch

Level 1: Give frequent hugs, back scratches or loving pats/touches during the day.

Level 2: Give a foot or shoulder rub at the end of the day.

Level 2: Offer a full-body massage at your spouse’s chosen time.

Make Plans

Level 1: Hire a sitter if needed and plan a night out. Play his/her favorite song while you are out or request that it be played. (Music is emotionally bonding even when you are having some conflict.)

Level 2: Do something unusual or new like seeing a live concert or show, or participating in a new activity. (This creates excitement and closeness.)

Level 3: Plan a weekend or vacation away with just the two of you.

Commune with Nature

Level 1: Take a leisurely stroll in a nearby park or garden.

Level 2: Visit a state park together for a hike.

Level 3: Plan a surprise picnic with delicious food near uplifting natural surroundings.

Or, ignore all of these ideas and just come up with one small thing you will do today to show love—make her favorite dinner or his favorite dessert. Take care of one extra errand he had on his list. Buy some lingerie he would enjoy. Draw her a bubble bath and play her favorite tunes. Whatever makes your sweetie smile and lets them know you have been thinking of them. I think one small thing each day or week is better than a bigger act of kindness every few months. Don’t complain when your spouse doesn’t immediately reciprocate. You are doing this as an act of love, not so you can get something in return. In general, couples who are doted on do begin to think more about expressing their love in return. Some couples even find they are competitive with which spouse can come up with spontaneous or creative ways to show their love.

What are your easy or fast ideas to express kindness, love, or appreciation to your spouse?

Do You Make a Difference to Someone?

Do you ever lament that you didn’t live up to a certain ideal or potential in life? Do you wish you could have a big impact on the world? Do you ever dream you could be great at something? I have, especially when I watch a great musical performer. I wonder what it’s like to have such a huge talent, but I’ve learned to just appreciate each person’s gifts. I used to think I should be responsible for something great in life, but I have changed my perspective. That is not to say I believe anyone should be mediocre, but I think small things are a great place to put our attention.

Have you heard someone say “I’m no Mother Theresa,” meaning they’re not perfect? In fact, she was a most humble woman and never attributed any great act to herself.  She is often quoted as saying, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

When you think about how you impact the world on a daily basis, people probably don’t judge your career success or accomplishments or whether your house is perfectly clean each day. But the grocery clerk will notice if you remembered her name. Your child will notice if you made her favorite meal or took a few minutes to listen. Your coworkers will notice if you help un-jam the copy machine and try to be a pleasant person with whom to work.

A November Redbook Magazine article shares small gestures that couples use to show their love. A wife sneaks a dog toy into her husband’s suitcase to remind him of home. A husband surprises his wife with freshly ironed clothes. One man is excited that his wife listens to details about his basketball game. Several of them regularly leave little love notes around for their spouse, either text messages, love letters or sticky notes. These are the little things that keep love alive and relationships strong.

Not to be outdone by the love birds, acts by strangers are highlighted in a recent Woman’s Day article. A mother of three secretly paid for a soldier’s coffee and muffin, and felt good all day. Another was blessed when a stranger gave her and her son an umbrella and jacket while in the rain. One person even gave away a piano he wasn’t using to a child who was learning to play and was visiting a church each day to practice because he didn’t have one.

If you’ve ever been to a funeral, these are the stories that get told, the acts of kindness, generosity and love.  The great presentations given to management won’t be remembered.

Once you feel like you have the hang of doing small things with great love, you might consider upping the ante. CNN recently highlighted the top 10 everyday heroes who made a big difference in seemingly small ways, from rebuilding houses in New Orleans to educating children in extreme poverty or crossing the border each day to feed hungry children in Mexico. Many of them used very small amounts of money to make a great big difference. Go to www.cnn.com for inspiration, or consider supporting a charity close to your own heart.

How will your children remember you? Your spouse? Your friends? What do you hope they will say about you?