I started to groan, seeing it as another "you're not doing it well enough" sign, but then I realized it meant more than that. It really begins to make sense when combined with Einstein's definition of insanity:
doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When you have repeatedly practiced something the wrong way, the only thing you've perfected is how imperfectly you do it.
So I've been pondering this thought since just after Christmas. There are so many things I want to do better. In fact, I don't think there is a single area of my life that I don't need to dramatically improve. But hasn't this always been the case? What makes it possible to step out of that practiced rut? Can I will myself into dropping bad habits? Or, instead, do I need to practice good things until I've perfected them and they've displaced the bad?
The things we do are symptoms of the things we think. What thoughts do we entertain or "practice"? If we desire to be better housekeepers, do we really think this is possible while we are still ungrateful for the homes we are keeping? Rather than imagining life with a matching living room set, and practicing discontent, imagine life without any couch. Rather than dreading dirty dishes, imagine life without a family to feed. Imagine a family to feed, but no food to feed them. Practice thankfulness.
If we want to be better parents, do we really think this is possible while we are focused on our own comfort and entertainment? If you find yourself saying (or thinking) "All I ask...." or "I only wanted...." All I ask is that you pick up after yourself! I only wanted 5 minutes in the bathroom alone! then you probably also find yourself thinking (but not admitting) that you really should get up and find out what they are arguing about, but you're in the middle of something you enjoy....or that you really should take the time to teach them the right way to do something, but it's so much easier to just do it yourself...and then complain about it. Modern thought is that, as moms, we have to look out for our own interests; if we don't get our "me time", we won't be able to be our "best selves". What do you want your best self to look like? Practicing self-centered thought will never perfect selfless-giving. While I'm sure she exists somewhere, I've never met a mom who never took time for herself and worked herself into misery. But I have seen an abundance of moms that were so intent on their own self-interests that their families were miserable....and so were the moms. The happiest moms (and happiest families) I've seen involved moms that were dedicated to doing what was needed, regardless of the cost. More and more, moms seem to consider the cost of their own free time just too much of a price to pay. Practice selflessness.
If we want to be better spouses, can we do so while still thinking about the areas they've left unfulfilled? Any teen-romance movie will tell you that true love is all about "the way he makes me feeeeeel." But this isn't true at all, and that isn't love. Love is noble. Love is a choice. Love is something you give. If the googly-eyed feeling you experience makes you think about how happy it makes you feel rather than how happy you want to make the other person feel, it isn't love. Giving love makes you happy. The bible instructs wives to give respect to their husbands and it instructs husbands to show love to their wives. Many of both sides have said that it would be easy to fulfill their part if their spouse would fulfill their own part. If you want a better marriage, don't practice thinking about how much more they should do, practice thinking about what their needs and desires are. Practice love.
If we want healthier bodies, will focusing on how unattractive we feel change our body shape? Our bodies react to what we put in them. Food is a gift from God for pleasure, fellowship, and fuel. It is not a drug. It is not a medication. It is not entertainment in and of itself. Our bodies respond to the food we give them, just as God created them to do. When you appreciate the beauty of God's incredible machine, known as the human body, you admire His handiwork. Perhaps your body is not what you want it to be. It will never be unnaturally perfect, but rather than focusing on what it is not, focus on what it needs to be healthy. Healthy is beautiful. Practice self-respect.
So this is my New Year's focus. I have spent many years perfecting self-seeking and discontentment. My thoughts are changing. It's time to practice good thinking.
What have you perfected?