Making Home Improvements
by Gary Chapman & Shannon Warden
“THAT’S MINE!” “You’re in my space.” “We don’t ever do what I want to do.”
Do you frequently hear comments like these around your home? Are they typically said with an angry or critical attitude? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re not alone! Comments and attitudes such as these suggest that your family, like many others, deals with selfishness. You’re also not alone if “less selfishness” is at the top of your home improvement list.
For starters, you may be tired of your children arguing over toys or fighting about who gets to sit by the window or eat the last cookie. Like most parents, you just want a little peace and quiet. You ask, “Why can’t you kids just get along?”
Plus, you may desire that your children grow up knowing how to share and get along with others. You realize that now, not later, is the time to train them in these skills.
Then there’s you and your spouse. You each may wish the other person would step up their share of the work around the house or just be more supportive of your ideas and feelings. Cleaning, laundry, and bills are not going to do themselves, after all! You ask, “I thought we were a team. Why aren’t you helping me?”
Just sharing a house can spark problems. If your family shares bathrooms, you know what I mean . . . You have to wait to get in the bathroom and sometimes have to deal with sharing the space with another family member. Then you’ve got the issue of little to no counter space, which means other people’s stuff gets mixed in with your stuff. For family members who prefer clean spaces, this can also mean a messy kid—or spouse—may regularly be undoing your tidying-up efforts. Or how about the person who takes forever in the shower?
Waiting. Sharing. Protecting our space and our stuff. Not fun! If we were talking about literal home improvement, a bathroom renovation in this case would definitely be much appreciated. I can imagine renovators removing a wall, repositioning the shower or toilet, or updating the bathroom vanity to modernize and maximize space.
Similarly, selfishness in the family makes us feel cramped for space and time. We can’t touch each other’s stuff without backlash. We may be criticized if we want or take time to ourselves. Or we may fail to understand or offer help to each other when that help could go a long way in easing another’s stress. Although the physical space issues that necessitate sharing can be annoying, the selfish attitudes behind the backlash, criticism, or lack of understanding can be even more frustrating.
Nearly everyone would like to build a family less selfish, more kind and considerate. But before we try to fix the problem, we validate people’s feelings because that’s an important part of home improvement—simply acknowledging that family members’ thoughts and feelings matter. We then spend time talking through personal expectations and defining what selfishness is and how it negatively impacts family relations.
As part of those home improvement talks, I work with people to see that not all “selfish” thoughts and feelings are bad. Thoughts and feelings can sometimes represent valid desires for consideration or help. After all, a child may not truly be selfish in the worst sense of the word; she is merely young and heartbroken over having to share a favorite toy. Or a husband may have worked diligently to get household chores done in time to watch his favorite team play on television; he isn’t necessarily being selfish because of making a little time for his own special interests.
While increasing understanding is an important improvement tool, what I want to encourage you to add to your home improvement toolbox is kindness, and more specifically, consideration of your family’s needs.
You’ve been kind throughout your life, so you know what kindness is. It’s making sure your spouse has his or her favorite peanut butter as opposed to buying the cheaper brand you’d prefer to buy; it’s listening to your spouse or child vent when you’d prefer to be reading your magazine or taking a nap; and it’s giving up watching your favorite home improvement television show so that you can spend time with your child who wants to watch SpongeBob.
You’ve also benefited from the kindness of others. So you know how it feels when your spouse texts you to check in on how you’re doing, when your child picks up her toys to surprise you when you come home from work, and when your family treats you special on your birthday.
Why are you kind? Why did someone else’s consideration of you matter? I believe the answer is the same for both questions—consideration makes people feel like their needs matter. We want our loved ones to know their needs matter to us, and we want to know that our needs matter to them. Selfishness, on the other hand, conveys the opposite—that our needs are more important than their needs.
Just as no physical home is perfect, no home life is perfect. We’re human, so we know to expect some selfishness. But the less selfishness and the more kindness, the better!
I encourage you to celebrate with your family as you and they begin considering each other in little and big ways. Notice kindness, celebrate kindness, and enjoy the fruit of your labor, which, in this case, will be less selfishness and more consideration.
Adapted from The DIY Guide to Building a Family that Lasts: 12 Tools for Improving Your Home Life by Gary Chapman& Shannon Warden. (© 2019) Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.
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