On one of the hottest days of this summer, my air-conditioner quit working. The fan was blowing, but only warm air blew from the vents. I called a friend who repairs air-conditioners for a living. Because of the heat wave, he was swamped and said he wouldn’t be able to look at it for a couple of days. While he had me on the phone he had me check a few things. He suspected that I might have a bad thermostat. He suggested that I pick up a new one to see if that would take care of the problem. If it didn’t, he’d try to get to my house as soon as he could.
I went over to the local hardware store. As soon as I opened the door, there was an enthusiastic 16-year-old hardware store employee asking if he could help me find something. I explained that I was looking for a new thermostat. He said, “Follow me. I think they are in aisle seven”. We tuned down aisle seven and he said, “Here they are. Anything else?” I looked at where he was pointing and I said, “I’m sorry. These are thermometers. I’m looking for thermostats.”
“Oh, sorry. What’s the difference?” I tried my best to not looked a little shocked at his question, since he was indeed employed by a hardware store. So I gave him a little lesson in the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer.
“A thermometer reflects the temperature. A thermostat sets the temperature.” He might have understood, but I’m not sure. We finally found where the thermostats were and I brought one home. After about 20 minutes of rewiring the new thermostat, I turned on the air-conditioner. Voila! It worked. Cold air started blowing once again. My family felt the cool. I was the hero.
Over the next few days I thought about the conversation with the kid at the hardware store. I wondered to myself “Am I a thermometer or a thermostat?” Was I a reflection of the temperature around me? Or was I setting the temperature around me?
When someone is cold to me, am I cold to them? Do I only love the people who show me love? If someone shares a gesture with me on the freeway, am I likely to share one with them? Am I only willing to go the extra mile for someone who is willing to go the extra mile for me? If I answer, “yes” to these questions then I am a thermometer.
On the other hand, if I can love those who are tough to love, give without expecting a return gift, stay calm when someone is screaming at me, compliment when I’m being criticized, honor others when I’m being disrespected, then I’m a thermostat. I’m setting the temperature around me.
Thermometer people are moody and difficult to be around because they change depending upon the situation around them.
Thermostat people are a blessing in our lives. They choose joy even when things get tough.
Someone once said, “Some people bring happiness wherever they go, others bring happiness whenever they go.”
As Christians and as parents, we are called to be thermostats; to be proactive rather than reactive, to influence rather than be influenced, to set the temperature in our families and our communities. It starts with us.
The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount speak of thermostat people and thermometer people.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
The attitude we choose determines the atmosphere we live in. That is thermostat living.
So, are you a thermometer or a thermostat?
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn
Father of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries