My dad was never one to give a lot of advice. He mainly gave a lot of unconditional love. But there was one phrase he repeated so often it became a sort of mantra for my sister and me. His words were “Don’t major on the minors and don’t minor on the majors”. In other words, pay attention to what’s truly important and don’t bother so much with all the rest.
Through the years both my sister and I have used that phrase to bring clarity and perspective to various life situations. It became the filter through which we sifted all the sands of worry which could have filled our cup of life. Even to this day, when confronted with challenges or irritations we ask ourselves “Is it major?” And if it is not we try to let it go.
So what IS major? Actually not very much. In Dad’s mind relationships were paramount. Our relationship with God and with each other. In the end, it’s the only thing that outlasts all else. Material things are quickly eclipsed by the value of those things which are eternal and by our relationships with the ones we love.
Material things are quickly eclipsed by the value of those things which are eternal and by our relationships with the ones we love.
My dad always enjoyed driving a nice car (even at times when he couldn’t really afford to). When I was twelve, he had just purchased a beautiful sleek new Pontiac which he polished and shined every few days. He thought it was the most beautiful car he had ever owned. But a few months later when I required an emergency surgery with an uncertain outcome, suddenly that car lost its luster. Coming home late from the hospital one night, he looked at the long sedan shining in the moonlight and said, “You big piece of junk!” When faced with the thought of losing his daughter, the car’s value became little more than scrap metal to him. It wasn’t major. I was.
I have a feeling that if any of us knew our lives were coming to an end, there would be a sifting away of the nonessential and a focusing on the things that truly mattered. Ultimately who of us has time to waste on the trivial? The petty? The artificial? The untrue?
Ultimately who of us has time to waste on the trivial?
I love the words of Philippians 3:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” It seems that list might not only serve as the standard for our thoughts but for what we devote ourselves to as well. Why waste our precious life energy on anything that is less than true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable? Why give ourselves away to the minuscule and mundane?
I want to push broad strokes across the canvas of my life. Vivid splashes of love, forgiveness, kindness and grace. I want to train my eye to search for and SEE what is of value and worth. I want to hold myself accountable for how I spend my days. And I want to know in the depth of myself what is truly important and what is not.
I want to push broad strokes across the canvas of my life. Vivid splashes of love, forgiveness, kindness and grace.
I was recently at a bridal shower where the guests were each asked to give a piece of marital advice to the young bride. My advice was simply a reiteration of my father’s words: “Don’t major on the minors and don’t minor on the majors.” And after almost forty-three years of married life, I also added, “By the way, about ninety percent of it is minor. You won’t think it at the time, but looking back you’ll see how much of what upset you was really not all that important at the end of the day.”
Looking at life from a broader, more eternal perspective helps us hold things more loosely, relax in the moment and not take ourselves so seriously. It also serves as a reminder to focus our time, thoughts and energies only on what is of true worth.
This Father’s Day I am reaffirming my commitment to live by those words which often reverberate in my head. Thank you, Dad, for advice well given and for a life well lived.