Tag Archive for michelangelo

A Surprising Contributor to Long Life

This surprising contributor to a long life was uncovered after examining data from 4,400 couples over the age of 50 and living in the United States. For eight years, these couples reported on their life satisfaction and several other factors believed to be related to longevity. Of course, this study confirmed several factors known to contribute to a long life…things like physical activity and access to resources. But, one factor was surprising. A happy spouse was associated with longer life. That’s right. Those participants who had a happy spouse tended to live longer. Those whose partners had a higher life satisfaction lived longer. It seems that higher life satisfaction (happiness) in one’s spouse led to greater physical activity and less stress for both partners. This finding held true even when other factors—like resources, physical activity, self-rated health, and partner death—were taken into consideration. In other words, spousal happiness had a positive impact on longevity of life regardless of other factors that also influence longevity. (Read a review of the study in People With Happy Spouses May Live Longer.)

If you want your spouse to have a long and happy life, learn to love life yourself. Build your happiness…your spouse will live longer as a result. For tips on how to do this, read:

And, if you want to live a long life yourself, promote your spouse’s happiness. Support your spouse’s dreams. Acknowledge your spouse’s effort. Thank your spouse for deeds done. All these will build their happiness…and contribute to your longer life. Even more, you’ll both enjoy your long lives together; lives filled with dreams and adventures you enjoy together; lives filled with satisfaction, joy and intimacy.

Serving Up Family Happiness

Serve up a big bowl of happiness for your spouse and children today. Here are the ingredients.

  1. Start with a big scoop of acceptance. Every member of the family needs to feel acceptance. They need to know they are accepted “no matter what.” They need to know that acceptance is not conditioned on behavior, performance, or beliefs. It is unconditional. This allows them to explore, grow, and mature. Lack of acceptance, on the other hand, increases stress hormones, decreases coping skills, and even hinders immune functioning. It can contribute to physical or emotional illness. Lack of acceptance hinders change. Acceptance will open the doors for change. Acceptance promotes healthy relationships and healthy emotional development. So make this first scoop of acceptance extra big. Give a double dose to everyone in the family.
  2. Add a delicious topping of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean “letting anything go.” No, tolerance simply means to accept our differences, to even enjoy each person’s unique contribution to the family and world. Tolerance accepts each person’s uniqueness by encouraging each one to “come into his/her own.” Tolerance knows that our differences add beauty to our relationship and strength to our opportunities. In appreciating each family member’s unique gifts, we can become the “Michelangelo” to each one’s dreams. Be gracious with the topping of tolerance…really gracious…pour it on.
  3. Then sprinkle on some hope. Hope looks to the future. Hope believes fun and intimate joys wait for us “just around the river bend.” Hope anticipates adventure and excitement, laughter and joy, even though there will be times of sorrow and stresses as well. So put on lots of sprinkles. Pour on the sprinkles through your actions and your words.
  4. After you’ve done all this get out a real bowl and fill it with ice cream (I prefer chocolate chip cookie dough). I mean fill it up. Then pour on some caramel, chocolate, and even a little marshmallow and whip cream. Throw on some sprinkles…the colorful ones, they’re the best. Get a spoon for everyone and enjoy the treat. Tell a few family stories while you eat. Dream about your next outing. Laugh. Have a good time. Serve up the happiness!

There you have it, a big bowl of happiness. Enjoy!

Happiness is life served up with a scoop of acceptance, a topping of tolerance and sprinkles of hope, although chocolate sprinkles also work.  –Robert Brault

A Taste of Heaven on Earth

Last weekend my wife and I enjoyed the opportunity to attend a wedding. It was a wonderful wedding.  The families of the bride and groom joyfully welcomed one another into their  growing The Holy Bible and the Crown of Thornsfamily. An acoustic guitar played quietly as the people gathered. The bride was radiant and the ceremony was beautiful.  A lovely young girl read scripture. The minister (also the father of the groom) shared some humorous family stories and, amazing to me, held back tears as he completed the ceremony that welcomed a lovely young lady into the life of his son and their family. Afterward, friends congratulated the bride and groom. The reception was a carry in dinner…the food was amazing and plenteous. Some people danced. Some people mingled and talked. Everyone smiled and laughed and hugged and hugged again. It really was a wonderful wedding.


Listening to the vows and enjoying the ceremony, I began to marvel at the people who had gathered to support the marriage of these two young people. All marriages need this type of support…a community to celebrate, nurture, and encourage their love. This couple is very fortunate to have this kind of supportive community…a community that extends beyond their biological family…a community that will reinforce their love when they experience the inevitable hard times.


I was also reminded of the joy marriage can bring to a man and woman. Two people who nurture their marriage will experience a little taste of heaven on earth. As they humbly submit to one another rather than “lord it over one another,” they will know the joy of acceptance, adoration, and true leadership. As each one becomes a student of the other, they will experience the wonder of being fully known yet delighted in and loved as they never believed possible. As each person strives to please and encourage the other, they will both find they have become their best  because of their relationship to one another. As each one sacrifices for the good of the other and serves the other from a heart of generosity, they will know the euphoria of becoming one in a sense that only love can teach us. They will know laughter in times of joy; and they will know comfort in times of sorrow. They will grow intimate beyond what they can currently believe possible. All in all, they will know God in a sense they could never imagine. They will experience a little taste of heaven on earth. And, as they do, they will share that taste of heaven with everyone they meet. Their children, their parents, their church family, their friends, and even their coworkers will enjoy a refreshing taste of heaven in their marriage. So, to Stephen and Melanie…God bless you as you enjoy your own taste of heaven, a celebrating community of honor and grace.

5 Ways to Look Out for #1 in Your Family

You have to look out for “number 1,” “numero uno,” the “big cheese.” If you don’t look out for number one, who will? So, I encourage you to keep your eye on the goal, the “cream of the crop,” the…. Oh, wait. Maybe I need to clarify who “number one” is? When I say look out for “number one,” “numero uno,” “the big cheese,” I am referring to your spouse and your children. When it comes to building a healthy, lasting family, the other guy in your family is “number one.” And really, if you don’t look out for the other guy in your family, who will? Families flourish when each person in the family considers the other guy “number one” and looks out for the other guy’s interests. That is the crux of honoring one another. An ancient family expert said it this way: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Paul-Philippians 2:3-4) So, well, yeah…I hope I didn’t cause any confusion. Looking out for number one is looking out for other family members and here are 5 ways you can do just that:

      ·   Learn about their interests. Each family member has a unique personality and will have unique interests as a result. The “other guy’s” interests may not fill you with excitement; but if you take the time to learn a little bit about their interests, you will grow closer with “number one.” You will find yourself able to engage your family member in conversation about their interest and, even better, you will be thrilled to watch their face glow with excitement as they discuss this interest with you.

·   Listen intently. We can look out for “number one” by listening carefully with the goal of understanding. I don’t mean just listening with our ears either. I mean listening with our eyes, ears, mind, and heart. Make sure you not only hear the words accurately but that you can really see things their way as well. Listen so well that you can completely understand why they “think the way they think” and “feel the way they feel.” Listen so carefully that you can explain their point of view and behave in a way that informs them that you completely understand and respect how they feel. 

·   Find ways to express your admiration for each family member…after all, they are “number one.” Let them know you take great delight in them. You admire them. Tell them so with your words; and, let them see it in your eyes. Let them feel it in your hugs. Express your love with an encouraging back slap or a high-five. Let them see your admiration and delight for them in your actions.

·   Seek out ways to help them fulfill their dreams. Everyone has a dream. Find out about each family member’s dream. Share in their excitement. Learn about the topic of their dream so you can talk with them about it. Keep your eye open for opportunities for them to reach for their dream and share those opportunities with them. Help them reach for their dream.

·   Learn how you can make them happy. Maybe your kind words make them happy; maybe your acts of service make them happy. Or, you may find that loving touch, time spent together, or little gifts makes them happy. Carefully observe them to learn what brings them the greatest happiness and, most importantly, do it.

 It is true: you have to watch out for “Number One.” And, you have to make sure that the “number one” you look out for really is the right “one.” When it comes to family, “Number One” is not me…it is the rest of the family. Now go to it…watch out for “number 1,” “numero uno,” “the big cheese.”

A Secret for Happy Family Relationships

We all want to experience satisfying relationships in our home. We dream of a marriage filled with romance and intimacy. We strive to have parent-child relationships that remain close through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and even into our “grandparenting” years. The question is: how can we make this happen? Northwestern University recently published a study that reveals a secret that might help us build happy family relationships. The study asked individuals involved in romantic relationships how much their partners were trying to improve characteristics such as patience, understanding, or being a good listener…you know, relationship-oriented skills. Three months later, the same couples were asked to rate their partner’s level of improvement and their own feelings about the relationship. The answers revealed that people who believe their partner incapable of change tended to discount their efforts to improve. In addition, they became more dissatisfied with their relationship. To state the flip side of this, believing the best about our partner will help us appreciate his or her efforts to improve their relationship skills. Moreover, when we believe the best, we will grow more satisfied with our overall relationship. In fact, the author of the study (Daniel Molden) suggests that “a secret to building a happy relationship is to embrace the idea that your partner can change, give him or her credit for making these types of efforts, and resist blaming him or her…” Although this study was conducted specifically with romantic couples, I believe the results may apply to family relationships in general.
So, the secret to building happy family relationships is to believe the best about your family members. Reminds me of a line from the famous love poem Paul wrote to the Corinthians. You remember the line–“love believes all things.”
     ·         Love believes that family members can change. There is no “but” or exceptions noted in the phrase “love believes all things.” Love believes in the other person. Love believes that our family members will grow and learn. They will make improvements, sometimes small and sometimes big. Over time, even the small improvements will add up to a “big change.” Love does not limit the possibilities of change or criticize small changes as “not being enough.” On the contrary, love opens up the potential for positive change and appreciates every miniscule step of positive growth.

·         Love believes family members have the best of intentions, even when they fall short. Sometimes a family member may do or say something that, at first blush, seems hurtful or neglectful. We may actually experience hurt in response to their actions or words. However, love believes that our family member did not act maliciously or with negative intent, even when it hurt. Perhaps they did not realize how much their actions would actually hurt. Perhaps they spoke more harshly than intended because they were tired, hungry, or irritated with some situation outside the home. Perhaps they did mean to arouse a negative feeling because they felt their relationship with you was threatened and, in a knee-jerk reaction, said something hurtful. But it was a misguided reaction, done in fear, with the true intent of pulling you back into a secure and intimate relationship. Underneath all the words and deeds is a yearning for mutual love, a seed of love waiting to be acknowledged and reciprocated. Love believes that underneath the hurtful remarks of family there is still a desire for intimacy, a longing for closeness that is seeking expression and can only find that satisfaction through intimate relationship. When we acknowledge that underlying intention, the underlying longing for closeness, we can experience a growing intimacy and satisfaction with our relationship.

·         Love believes that family members are putting forth a sincere effort to grow individually and in relationship. Love gives credit to family members for the effort they put forth. Love acknowledges and accepts even the most miniscule level of change as evidence of effort and growth. Even when a family member “tries” to change and fails, love praises that effort, appreciates that effort, and applauds that effort. Love leaves no stone unturned in the quest to recognize the other person’s effort to grow.

·         Love believes that our family deserves our best effort and our best character. When we love our family, we believe that they deserve the best of our time, not the leftovers. In love, we want to give them the best of our energy, not the dregs that remain after we exert our best energy on friends, hobbies, or work. Love also compels us to grow so we can offer our family the very best of our character. Love believes motivates us to become a person who elicits pride and admiration from our family.
Yes, love believes all things. To paraphrase the author of the Northwestern University study, “a secret to building a happy relationship is to embrace the idea that your family members can change, give them credit for making these types of efforts, and resist blaming them for falling short.” When we replace fearful hesitation with intentional effort, skepticism with faith, doubt with trust, and unbelief with belief, family relationships grow more intimate and satisfying. Paul believed it when he told the Corinthians…I believe it as I read the Northwestern University Study…love always believes it!

Beauty, Beast, & Your Family

“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”
Chesterton makes a great point here. Our actions will either bring out the beast or the beauty in family members. We bring out the beast in family members when we:
  1. Constantly interrupt them when they speak
  2. Put our effort into making them understand us
  3. Put family members “in their place” when they get “too confident”
  4. Impatiently criticize them and minimize their effort
  5. Act as though their opinion is less important than our opinion
  6. Make constant demands on them but give very little
  7. Constantly complain that they “didn’t do it the right way the first time” or “didn’t do it good enough”
  8. Make rude comments, gestures, or facial expressions (eye rolls) 
  9. Waste their time by being late or making them do what we could do ourselves
  10. Break our promises
To bring out the beauty in family members make an effort to:
  1. Listen intently and respectfully, without interruption
  2. Put more effort into understanding family members
  3. Encourage them with your words and actions
  4. Accept their opinion and even allow it to influence your behavior
  5. Do something nice for them
  6. Speak to them with kindness
  7. Volunteer to do their chore for a week
  8. Let them have the “shotgun seat” in the car
  9. Keep your promises
  10. Politely hold the door open for them
  11. Say “Thank-you” and “You’re welcome.”
  12. When the other person acts like a beast, do 1-11 anyway!

My Michelangelo

Michelangelo is quoted as saying, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” I love that quote. Researchers describe a Michelangelo effect between spouses when one spouse brings out the best, the angel, in the other. My wife is my Michelangelo. Other people look at me and see a slab of rock; but she sees something more. She looks into that slab of rock and sees a statue waiting to take shape, dreams and aspirations waiting to emerge, an ideal self waiting to be set free. At times, I think she believes I am more like that ideal person than I really am. She compliments me like I’ve already achieved more of my ideal than I really have. Not only does she see and believe in my ideals and dreams, she actively helps me reach for them. She supports me and even assists me in reaching my goals. All the while, she talks about how much she enjoys doing things with me. 

Don’t get me wrong. She still recognizes my limits and shortcomings. In many ways, she compensates for them. When I feel frustrated with so much bureaucracy, she handles it. When I become overwhelmed with all that needs done, she takes some of the burden. Sometimes I become obsessed with worry and she “talks sense to me.” Other times I prepare to jump head first into the mix and she brings needed caution and forethought. All the while, she encourages and compliments.

Yes, my wife is my Michelangelo. She has taken a slab of stone and helped find the statue inside. She did not decide what statue she thought I should become. Instead, she realized the ideal self I wanted to become and encouraged that ideal. She recognized my dreams, accepted those dreams, and supported me in reaching for those dreams. In the process, she lovingly chisels away at the fears and inhibitions that interfere with my dreams. She helps add shape and substance to my dreams and makes me a better person for it. I only hope I can do the same for her.

So, to my wife I say: “Thank you for being the Michelangelo to my slab of marble. Thank you for honoring me enough to envision the ‘angel in the marble’ and patiently, lovingly helping to ‘set him free.'”