Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Focus on Marriage Teleconference, part 5

Posted in Christianity, marriage by Kathy on March 14, 2009

(Click here for the introduction and part 1, if you haven’t read parts 1-4 yet.)

John Trent was the 5th and final speaker at the Focus on the Family “Focus on Marriage” teleconference, and his topic was “Small Changes, Big Results.” He’s written a book called The Two-Degree Difference, with the word-picture of the minor changes a person makes to the steering wheel while driving, to maintain the proper course of the car on the road in the correct lane. He asked the rhetorical question, “What would happen when you drove your car, if you only made 10-degree changes or larger while steering?” Of course, you’d probably be pulled over with the assumption of driving under the influence. Using that analogy, he pointed out that often when you make these large changes, you may over-correct, and instead of driving into one ditch, you merely end up in the other ditch, so you’re really not that much better off.

The word “righteousness” literally  means, “to stay between the lines”

Often big problems have small solutions:

  1. Naaman had leprosy, and his cure was to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River. When told of the little thing he had to do for the cure, he became offended and went away in a rage.
  2. Luke 19 says that those who are faithful in very little will become faithful over much
  3. Mark 9, in answer to the question, “Who is the greatest?” Jesus says that the greatest was the one who made himself least; and that receiving a little child in His name receives Jesus
  4. C.S. Lewis said, “Good and evil increase with compound interest” — so little things become exponential

The 5th example was the story of Rudy Giuliani, taken from the book he wrote about his experiences as the mayor of New York. I’d not heard a lot of what Dr. Trent said before, so this was fascinating to me, simply from a historical and practical perspective, so I’m going to include the details, even if they don’t particularly relate to marriage.

The year before Giuliani became mayor, the homicide rate of NYC was somewhere around 2400 murders per year (I didn’t write down the exact figure) — and this was just in NYC proper, not counting the outlying areas; by the time he left office 8 years later, the number was somewhere between 600-700 murders. To effect this great change, one might think there were great measures taken, but the changes were actually quite small. Called “The Broken Window Theory” — that when one window pane is already broken, it becomes that much easier to break another pane and then another, and finally to break into the house itself and steal — Giuliani focused on fixing the little things. [I thought Dr. Trent said that Giuliani called for enforcing laws already on the books about keeping windows in good repair; my husband thought it was just a hypothetical/theoretical situation, and this little change was not one of the things Giuliani actually enforced. I’m not sure who is right.] Anyway, other things he did was to make sure all graffiti in the subways was covered and painted over every morning before the first train left; arrested turnstile jumpers (ended up catching a lot of wanted felons this way), and arrested squeegee men. I didn’t realize that the problem with squeegee men is that they were practically extorting money from drivers — if the drivers didn’t give them money for cleaning their windshields, then the squeegee men would damage the car (break windshield wipers, etc.). Legally, the cops couldn’t arrest them for squeegeeing, nor for extortion, but they could arrest them for jaywalking, which is what they did. As soon as the squeegee men stepped off of the crosswalk to approach a car, the cops would arrest them. Before instituting this program, the NYC cops estimated that there were 2000 squeegee men in the city; only 167 men were actually arrested. [I see two possibilities here — one is that they vastly overestimated the number because the squeegee men were so visible and caused such a problem; or that as word got out about the arrests, the squeegee men stopped of their own accord — or some combination of the two.] They vastly reduced crime, including homicide, by focusing on little things.

Using a helium balloon on a long string as a prop, he talked about taking the “up there” principles and bringing them “down here” — to put them into action.

He mentioned MarriageMentors.com — to help churches train people to help and encoruage people in poor relationships; as well as the two-degree difference radio program on his website, and a commitment sheet.

Bless your spouse:

  1. hold hands (meaningful touch)
  2. spoken message
  3. attach high values (bless, “add weight”) to your spouse
  4. picture a special future for that person
  5. genuine commitment
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