I’ve got these rules for life. Perhaps you already know that. Some may not. The rules themselves are nuggets of wisdom. Some were heard from others but most were learned the hard way. Which basically means that I fell flat on my face enough times to learn their lesson. They aren’t in a particular order, this happens to be the fourth in the list – Don’t sweat the small stuff (almost everything is small stuff).
This is definitely one of the rules I learned over many years through multiple face plants and failures. I can’t count the number of times that I tripped over what I thought was a mountain and it was really just a tiny crack in the pavement. Worry, anxiety, stress, fear, and pride are potent reminders to check my attitude before I say or do something that trips me up.
To be sure, there really are mountains in our lives. Worries, stresses, and fears that are significant. But many things we count as mountains aren’t. This is especially true when our attitudes and motivations are driven by the fear of what others may think about us. In reality that is small stuff that I can’t control, even if I do exactly what I think others would like there’s no guarantee their response will match my expectations. It is small stuff.
Perhaps this will illustrate what I mean. Hang around middle schoolers sometime, those pre-teens and just-teens on the doorway of adulthood still see the world in the black and white of childhood. Who is out, who is in, who likes me, who doesn’t like me, who is in my group, who is not in my group, who can sit next to me at lunch, who can’t. These ins and outs are big stuff to them. We as adults perhaps laugh at their silliness and pettiness. Or perhaps we see ourselves when we look in that mirror. In our larger more aged world there are many things that we may feel are big stuff but in God’s eyes they are infinitesimally inconsequential.
Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?… “for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25,32b-33, NASB95) Now I don’t know about you but I count having clothes and food as big stuff, but Jesus recategorizes our priorities. Things mountainous to us are small stuff in light of seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. Think about that, if the basic necessities are counted as small stuff where does that leave everything else?
This rule doesn’t mean that we live a lazy life or act like a rude bulldozer around others. We still have responsibilities. We still go to work and do the best job we can. We still care, love, show mercy and compassion, and offer grace and thanks to all we encounter. We see to the needs of our families and others. The point of this rule is to rightly prioritize what is important and avoid being motivated by fear, worries, and imagination.
That’s what “don’t sweat” means, don’t worry or stress. A small pebble in the shoe can cause endless worry and agony. But there is a simple solution, remove the pebble. Don’t sweat the small stuff categorizes life’s worries so that we expend energy on the stuff that really matters like loving God and loving others.
Don’t sweat the small stuff (almost everything is small stuff).