As I record Legacy Interviews, patterns emerge about the human condition. Every older man I’ve interviewed has experienced tragedy and endured difficult times. Everyone can look back and feel sadness over losses, failures and missed opportunities. But there is one characteristic that seems to relieve the pains of life; gratitude.
The men that seem the happiest with their lives, always have at least one person that they are profoundly grateful for. Sometimes it is their children, often it is for the loyalty of friends, most of the time it is for their wife.
Men will flash a clever smile as they describe getting a beautiful woman to marry them, but beauty is never the core of their gratitude. Instead, the gratitude comes from knowing their wife cared for them in a way they didn’t feel they deserved.
- The young man that didn’t know how to curb his bad drinking habits and had a wife that mercifully helped him out of a hole.
- The ambitious company man that would have burned bridges if not for the wife explaining how things worked behind the scenes.
- The salesman who’s wife was the one who knew how to host guest and build trust over business dinners.
- The man who knew he’d have been penniless if not for a wife that budgeted and saved
- The father without the heart to be the disciplinarian, and the wife that stepped in as the bad guy.
I don’t really know if these men express their gratitude to their wives, many of them are gruff or seem to be of few words. But during our interview it becomes clear that their experience of being married is one of gratitude for the mercy, love, kindness, support and patience they didn’t feel they deserved.
The profound lesson is not that their happiness comes from lives that turned out perfectly. To the contrary most of the satisfied people I interview had difficult lives, but they don’t seem to notice the pain and difficulty, because gratitude colors their memories so vividly that they can’t help but feel good happy with their lives.