It happens every day. A wife explodes at her husband for leaving his dirty socks on the floor. A husband spews cutting words at his wife for telling him which parking spot to pick. A worn-out mama snaps at her kids over toothpaste left in the sink. An overworked father belittles his son for misplacing the television remote. We turn little things into big things, making tiny cracks into craters every time we major on the minors.
Is it really that big of a deal if my husband chooses a different parking spot than I would? Do globs of toothpaste left in the sink truly warrant total exasperation? What about socks on the floor? It might be an annoyance or even a pet peeve (and something I should discuss with my spouse), but when I explode over such a minor issue, I invariably cause more damage.
Let the record show, it’s much easier to repair a crack than a crater, yet we find ourselves in the trenches all the time. We think we can’t help our reactions (It’s just the way we are.), but that’s not actually true. It is possible to keep vigilance over our actions, to watch what we say, and show kindness when we don’t feel like it—with the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s love filling our hearts.
We don’t have to overreact at toothpaste globs in the sink or dirty clothes spewing across the floor. Instead, we can be gracious toward one another (especially those we live with), and we can learn not to major on the minors.
Wise Words Come from God
In life, there are big issues and there are little issues. The problem is we tend to mislabel the minor things as big issues and then avoid the big stuff altogether. Learning to discern the issues that need a discussion versus those that need to be soaked in a bucket of grace takes wisdom and discernment—both of which come from God.
Do you remember what James said? “Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:7–8). Humanity may be able to cut through mountains, harness ocean waves, and recreate the human brain, but no one—not a single soul—can bind the tongue. Apart from Christ working in us, we’re a hopeless mess of biting, bitter, and broken words.
We need Jesus to help us know when to talk, when to stay silent, and what to say. Proverbs 20:15 says, “There is gold and a multitude of jewels, but knowledgeable lips are a rare treasure.” As exceptional as it is to find a treasure trove filled with jewels, it’s even more extraordinary to encounter someone who speaks only wise words.
Wise Words Encourage the Pursuit of Christ
A common misconception, especially in marriage and parenting, is that it’s our job to fix everything we deem “wrong” with our people. But that’s not our job at all. Instead, our job is to love them as Christ loves them. Sometimes that means speaking the truth in love, and other times it means accepting our loved ones for how God made them.
Your spouse is not you. Your kids are not you. They are good at things you aren’t good at, you’re good at things they may struggle with, and that is okay. The best thing we can do for our loved ones is to help them grow into God’s image, not our image.
We aren’t encouraging our loved ones in their pursuit of Christ when we constantly harp on them for things that bother us, or criticize them for falling short of our expectations. Instead, we’re forcing them to pursue our happiness, and in doing so, we not only distract them from what’s most important, but we turn cracks into craters by majoring on the minors.
For example, I like a clean house, so it’s easy for me to make the cleanliness of our home my number one priority. It bugs me when things are messy. But honestly, having an always kept house is a minor thing compared to the spiritual development of my children, my relationship with them (and their friends), time with my husband, and my own relationship with Christ.
While there is certainly something to be said for a clean house, there is also something to be said for keeping the minor things minor and the major things major. Confusing the two leads to frustration and harsh words that can damage the people we care about the most.
Wise Words Keep Minor Things Minor
Jesus is the best example of what it looks like to major on the majors. He lived every moment of His humanity undistracted. He didn’t get sidetracked by secondary issues like Sabbath day regulations or rules for cleansing (Matt. 15:20). No matter the situation (or temptation), Jesus never allowed minor issues to paint the bigger picture. Not even close encounters with diseases like leprosy rattled His demeanor.
Christ’s desire with every encounter closely resembled Paul’s directives for the wealthy in 1 Timothy 6:18–19. “Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share, storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life.”
And therein lies the goal: to encourage our people to take hold of what is truly life. To empower them to work for the kingdom of heaven and store up treasure that lasts. To be rich toward God, generous toward others, always showcasing Christ’s love in our hearts. But when we major on the minors—nitpicking at the things that don’t really matter—we’re no closer to that goal.
Before you pick a fight with your husband, think about whether your issue is a major or minor one and let the little things go. To keep the minor things minor promotes peace while making mountains out of molehills leads to arguments.
So what if your man isn’t the best at picking up after himself? He works hard, and his dedication is noteworthy. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Tell your kids how proud you are of them. Speak into them and over them instead of at them. Write down your goals for your children, and then evaluate whether your demands fit within those goals.
Wise Words Come through Prayer
Asking yourself whether something is a “major” or a “minor” issue before bringing up a topic is a simple yet highly effective tool. And if you’re not sure, ask the Lord before you speak. I wonder how many arguments we could prevent if we learned to talk to God before talking to others.
Our current culture is full of topics to argue over, and it’s easy to get confused over what’s a significant issue and what’s a minor one, due to fear and frustration. Unfortunately, mislabeling causes further division. Cracks become craters in a matter of seconds when minor issues become major, but we can love on purpose by seeking to distinguish between the two.
I know it’s not easy to hold your tongue. It’s hard to remain quiet over certain things in order to emphasize others. I’ve felt biting comments push against my lips, too, and it’s made my insides burn to keep my mouth closed at times. But with God, anything is possible . . . even the taming of a tongue.
So pick your words wisely, my friend. Ask yourself, is this a major issue or a minor one? Am I hurting or helping my relationship by speaking these words? In time, I think you’ll see that it’s best not to major on the minors.