Do Small Things Matter More?

The big things in our lives are memorable. But does this mean that they are important? I wonder whether in some ways the small things aren’t more important.

Perhaps small things matter more.

When we look back on our lives we remember big events. Things that happened once. Things that were very intense or singular. Things like our first kiss — or first really good kiss. The first day at a new job or the day we decided to leave our job.

This leaves out most of most days. The big things we remember are different to all the usual stuff. This makes them memorable, but perhaps that doesn’t make them more important. If it’s only the big things that are important then most of our life isn’t.

This can lead to the situation where someone talks about their fifteen minutes of fame or one great achievement for the rest of their life. I find this sad. In this post I want to think out loud about whether small things can be more important than big things.

I’m wondering if it isn’t the small things that are important. In our relationships, perhaps it is all those times we are reliably kind — making the coffee, doing the washing up. Perhaps in any big and long-lasting relationship there will times of major sacrifice. But how much would this matter if there weren’t all the little daily considerations? If a person pulls their spouse out of the way of a truck and saves their life this is important. If they then criticise and demean them ceaselessly is this unimportant? Perhaps, in one way, it could be more important.

My feeling is also that many big things take effect through lots of little things. Falling in love was an incredibly intense experience for me. But it would have been nothing without all those times going out together, talking to each other and so on. It led to needing to sort out how we were going to live together, what sort of wedding we wanted, who would cook and who look after the car. Millions of little things. All of which had a part in living the intensity of being in love.

Any major decision I can think of is made real in lots of tiny details. And sometimes the little details can get in the way of the big things.

A lawyer I met told me that a couple who were divorcing were going well in the mediation — so that they would avoid the cost of a court case. The mediation broke down over the lawn mower. They could agree about custody of the children and how to divide the proceeds from the sale of the house; but they couldn’t agree who should get the lawn mower — so they ended up going to court. This is the wisdom captured in the saying that for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the battle was lost. Sometimes too the small things can be more important than the big things.

What do you think? Are the small things in life important or is it rather the big things that give your life meaning for you? Would a life of small things be less important than a life full of big things? I’m not sure of the answers myself. I would very much like to hear what you have to say.

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