IT was nap time for our two preschoolers. I scraped the modeling clay off the kitchen floor, cleaned up the lunch dishes, put yet another load of laundry in the washer, and began to fold the gigantic pile of clean laundry. Somehow, this was not life as I'd planned it! Besides, I thought crossly, why didn't my husband do more? Why was I the one doing all the work?
Suddenly the words "self-righteous scorekeep-ing blared themselves in my thought. That stopped me in my tracks! Described like that, my attitude wasn't one I wanted to keep.
God speaks to each of us in ways that we can hear. This voice of God comes to human consciousness as the Christ, which heals, redeems, corrects, and blesses our lives. Jesus was so fully imbued with this Christly spirit that we call him Christ Jesus. That same spirit of Love which governed his every thought and action is available to each of us, today, as we hear it in our heart.
In my case, that spiritual intuition told me just what I needed to hear to correct a dangerous trend in thought. I was indeed "keeping score, comparing how much I did to how much my husband was doing. This certainly was no way for a marriage to progress, deepen, or succeed.
I did a good bit of thinking about self-righteousness that day and realized that self-righteousness is a form of blindness. It is thought so narrowly focused on itself that it cannot see the good that is all around. It is so self-occupied, so self-involved, that it cages itself into deeper and deeper unhappiness. Self-righteousness loses sight of gratitude, but gratitude is the key to getting out of that self-constructed cage.
The Apostle Paul gives us some instructions we can take to heart in learning how to be more grateful and fill our lives with the recognition of good. He says in his letter to the Philippians: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
When we fill our days with being grateful for the good around us, we don't have time to keep score. And we are more grateful because we begin to see that all good comes from God. Good is evidence of God's presence, and we can be glad for every evidence of His presence.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has a chapter entitled "Marriage in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This chapter gives one much clear and compassionate direction regarding marriage. One passage that helped me as I prayed to stop the destructive scorekeeping I'd been doing was this comment on husbands and wives: "If one is better than the other, as must always be the case, the other pre-eminently needs good company.
I remembered that a friend had mentioned years earlier that she and her husband used to joke about which of the two of them was the "better one and which was the one who needed "good company! Then one day it occurred to her that the phrase "better one didn't mean that one individual was more the child of God than the other. It meant that day by day, moment by moment, in a partnership or team effort such as marriage, one individual may rise to the occasion more quickly, more easily, than the other. And ho w wonderful for the other partner, who may need help at that moment!
This mutual support is shown in many obvious ways, such as helping each other in projects around the house. But it also shows itself in less obvious (and perhaps more needed) ways, such as a willingness to forgive unintended offenses and mistakes. Simply put, to help sustain each other is to love more unselfishly.
I began to look at our family life with unselfish gratitude as my perspective on what was going on, and I found a wealth of things to be grateful for. And I began to notice how often my husband was the one who was the "better one, and how often I was the one who needed the good company! I found that with this new view, I became a much happier wife and parent, and this was reflected in the atmosphere of our home and family life.
Several years have gone by since that time, but living with gratitude instead of scorekeeping has brought a happy home and successful marriage. Recently, when a large challenge came my way, I thought back on this early lesson. This time, my husband was the "better one for many patient and uncomplaining months, and I was so grateful for his steadfastness and support. I was glad to be in "good company. I realized that if I ever had been keeping score during the past many years, this recent loving help and attention would have wiped the slate clean many times over.
Marriage brings many expected joys and unexpected challenges. But how wonderful it is when we can support each other freely, without self-righteousness, without keeping score.
Be ye all of one mind,
having compassion one of another,
love as brethren,
be pitiful, be courteous.
I Peter 3:8