Despite the difficulties that come with getting older, we all hope we live long enough to experience them. But we also hope, of course, to find plenty of peace and comfort as well. According to one expert who has written about happiness in the retirement years, two key attributes are essential — in old age or any season of life: a good sense of humor and a willingness to forgive (see “Retirement for Two” by Maryanne Vandervelde, published in 2004; cited in “When Couples Have Different Attitudes about Aging,” by Glenn Ruffenach, Wall Street Journal, published Aug. 1, 2019, wsj.com).
A good sense of humor lifts perspective. When life gets us down, when our bodies are aging, when things don’t go the way we hoped and we feel stuck, nothing lifts the gloom quite like a good laugh. One aging couple noticed that it helps to stop and enjoy the lighter side of life. They try to find something to smile about each day: a joke, a humorous story, even their own mishaps. Somehow their circumstances don’t seem quite so bad when they take a minute to laugh.
Forgiveness can have a similar power in our lives. Like humor, forgiveness heals the heavy heart. As offenses pile up into the golden years, nothing clears the air like a healthy dose of forgiveness. Some choose to nurse grudges and polish up old put-downs, but what a burden that is to carry throughout our lives! Forgiveness feels so much better. As the retirement expert warned, “Forgiveness may not come easily after many years of disappointments or old grudges within a relationship. … But ‘practice makes perfect’”.
One older woman decided to adopt this attitude toward her husband, who seemed to always forget their anniversary. She could have become resentful, assuming that he was insensitive and uncaring, but instead she decided to respond with love and forgiveness, and even a little humor, giving him good-natured reminders as the anniversary approached. With forgiveness and humor, she saw her husband in a more compassionate light, and their love grew.
Moving along in years doesn’t mean we have to be set in our ways and patterns of interaction. We can see the advancing years as increasing opportunities to open our hearts, look for the humor in life, and strengthen our relationships with forgiveness and love.