You never pay attention to what I'm saying.
We have to watch our words. Unkind words can tear people apart, and they can break a marriage. As Christian women we should practice using words that are constructive rather than destructive. We need to focus on building up instead of tearing down.
It's so easy to give out, but it's hard to accept censure, isn't it? At times, we can really dish it out, can't we? But if we are attacked by harsh words we are deeply offended. Both times the problem lies in the way we handle the situation.
We often go wrong by targeting the person and not the problem. We will say something like, "You never..." or "You always..." do this or that. Think of it from the other's point of view, if someone tells you that you never or you always do this or that, aren't you offended?
A well-meaning friend threw me out of balance a while ago. She criticized one of my habits. First I was offended and went into defence mode. Then I decided to tackle the problem. I made some progress but only with baby steps. No, I'm far from avoiding this particular habit. Honestly? Each time I sense that someone shows the slightest attempt to mention it I'm thrown back to the beginning again. Did I need to hear the criticism? Perhaps. Was it okay for her to attack me and not my problem? No. Did she intentionally use hurtful words? I don't think so.
Unkind and destructive words can come out in a flash. In some cases the offended person will eventually get over it. In other cases unfit words leave deep cuts behind. By all means we need to target the problem itself and not the person. Sometimes that isn't quite as easy to do, I know. Here are just two ideas how to attack the problem and not the person:
The toothpaste problem: Are you annoyed because the tube of toothpaste in your bathroom looks the way it does - all but nice and neatly squeezed? >> Don't get annoyed at the people using it. Get a toothpast roller (also called squeezer) to tackle the problem.
The laundry problem: Tired of having to collect all the socks and shirts off the floors and out of each room? Buy a few extra popup or foldable laundry hampers. They are available in many nice colors. Put one in each bedroom. Tell each family member that only the clothes that are in the hampers will be taken to the laundry room to be washed, dried, folded, and brought back to the rooms.
Last week I have talked about the importance of taking the time to nurture our marriage. If we ignore this, things will get out of hand eventually. In the beginning we might still be able to downplay disagreements. However, sooner or later, a pile of problems that has not been dealt with will become a burden to the marriage.
Of course, keeping a marriage in good order is more serious than keeping a home tidy. Still, they are quite similar in some ways. If we pay attention and do not neglect them we can make things a bit easier on ourselves.
Think of this scenario: You receive a phone call from unexpected visitors, announcing that they are just around the corner of your house, planning to drop in shortly. All of the sudden, you are hard-pressed for time. You are in danger of losing it while running like mad through your home to put away at least some of the piled up clutter and cleanup what is absolutely necessary. Imagine how relaxed you could greet them at the door if you wouldn't have to worry about a thing before they'll arrive...
Now, let me say that a lonely home doesn't need cleaning, a family home does. We can't keep an occupied house spotless 24/7. There is no need to. It would lose the touch of coziness. Also remember that people are more important than stuff, so that a comforted child sitting on your lap is a greater reward than having a spotless bathroom.
Having said that, let me share just three things that will help us keep our homes clean:
The whole trick is to stay on top of things: accomplishing a little every day. That way you are facing no or a lesser burden during the weekly/monthly cleaning job and/or the cleanup before unexpected visitors arrive.
When taking advice from other homemakers we have to discern between principles and methods.
The following is not an exhaustive but a list of some of the principles for homemaking:
The methods of fulfilling the principles of homemaking may vary from homemaker to homemaker. While one woman accomplishes her tasks in a total different way than another woman would do them, she still fulfills her duty by doing what is required of her.
One homemaker cleans her house from front to back every day. Another cleans the family home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The first one could do so because she has little children and two dogs at home. The other could do so because her children are grown ups and moved out already. Principle: keep the home clean. Method: depending on the individual family.
One homemaker cooks pasta with sauce and vegetables every weekday. Another brings fancy meals to the table each day of the week. The first one could do so because she has only a small family budget available. The other could do so because money is not an issue in her home. Principle: feed the family. Method: depending on the individual family.
One homemaker's eighty-year-old mother-in-law has fallen ill and is in need of special care so she is living with the family now. The homemaker lets her children watch a DVD after they have finished homework together. Another takes her children to the park or to a movie twice a week after their homework is done. Principle: look after your children. Method: depending on the individual family.
These are general examples. Using your own life experience, I'm sure you can think of more. It's so easy to impose one or the other of our methods on other women. But they may not have the tools, the upbringing or the financial resources that we have. I've caught myself judging other women for doing some things another way... Later on I've read a book by Nancy Wilson called The Fruit Of Her Hands in which she explains the difference between principles and methods quite well.
In giving advice to others let us remember that just because a method of doing something seems best for us and our family doesn't mean that another woman and her family have to use the exact same method. We need to be gentle and understanding when teaching younger women. We have to avoid the trap of calling a method a principle. Let them find their best way of accomplishing tasks at home.