Don’t look around. Just stare straight at these words and try to remember all the green objects around you. No peeking. Got your list? Now look and count all the objects around you that are categorically green. Didn’t notice how many green things were around you before, did you…

This is a simple test which proves a simple point; you will not necessarily see the things that you are not looking for. Conversely, you will see the things that you are looking for.  It’s called ‘The Green Test’ and it was presented to me by one of my colleagues 1. The main point is that if I am actively looking for something I will see more of it! Here is an example. Have you had the experience of shopping for a new car and then you become aware of how many of those cars are on the road? When we bought a silver car manufactured by a particular auto company, I was amazed by how many similar cars we passed that week. Obviously many people decided that week to buy that same car, right? Umm…

Now, take this principle and apply it to your close relationships.  You’ve probably heard the expression “seeing red”. In this sense, your anger colors your ability to see clearly, coloring your perception.  If you are looking for things that irritate you – you will find them. If you have recently been offended by your spouse, chances are, you will continue to feel this offense in various forms for a while.  You will continue to feel offended, hurt, and see “red”. Conversely, if you are actively looking for good characteristics (green) in your spouse – you will also find them.  If you are focus on finding something particular that you really appreciate about your partner, chances are you will start to see it more often than before.

Shifting Colours Green and Red

At one particular juncture in my marriage I became keenly aware of how hard my husband worked. I often say that my hubby doesn’t have a lazy bone in his body and I clearly remember the time in our marriage when I recognized the amount of energy he gave to tasks. Because this was the ‘green’ I started looking for, my whole perception of him shifted.  I saw his work ethic expressed in all types of ways; how he got the day going immediately after the morning alarm clock woke him up, how his dishes ended up in the dishwasher and his clothes rarely were left lying around. I saw how he gave full effort not only to his career but also to his volunteer efforts. I realized how much our family benefited by his high level of intensity. Had he changed? Nope.  I started to notice good things I had taken for granted; things I had never recognized. I did ‘The Green Test’.

Now, I can easily note the green test can easily shift to “seeing red” and will highlight negatives. My husband could count the times I hit snooze button before I tumble out of bed and he could focus on my pile of cloths or the plethora of coffee cups scattered around the house. Green is neutral in itself; what it represents provides the response: how YOU ‘colour’ it.

Choose How ‘You Colour’ Your Relationship

Look around! What ‘green’ are you going to see today?  Tomorrow?  This Year?  As we start a New Year, I heartily wish you all the best: choose to focus on the aspects that will enrich your marriage. This may mean focusing on your spouse’s good characteristics that you may have taken for granted recently. Or, it could mean identifying patterns of behaviour that are destructive to your relationship. There are many hues of green and you will be amazed how much you see once you start to look! 

Need some help focusing on the ‘green’ around you? Check out this advice:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)


 1. Neal Black. I have learned a lot from this man. He and his wife speak with my husband and I at FamilyLife events. Check out some videos by Neal Communication in Marriage.

Written by Doris Douma Born

Doris Douma Born

Doris wants to live life to the fullest, and live it the way it was meant to be lived. But life can be hard, so she strives to walk through life openly and honestly. She wants to keep it REAL. She doesn’t think we are meant to walk life alone, but in relationship. Firstly in a relationship with our Creator and then with each other. She loves God first. Then others.