Life at Home Can Be Joyful
“SURVEY SAYS HOME MOST VIOLENT PLACE IN NATION.” “REPORT LINKS MURDERS WITH DOMESTIC QUARRELS.” Headlines such as these indicate that severe crises have developed in many households.
The article introduced by the first of those headlines noted that “about one out of every 100 husbands and wives had gone beyond slapping, kicking or throwing things at a spouse and said that they had been beaten up or had beaten up their spouse in the previous year.” Dr. Richard J. Gelles of the University of Rhode Island noted that “a million kids are growing up facing parents who are using guns and knives on them—not just threatening but they have actually used a gun or knife on them.”
It is nothing new for people to have difficulties in getting along with members of their own households. There is a well-known saying: “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
What about your household? Do members of your family enjoy talking together and doing things with one another? Or do you find that they seek their closest friendships outside the family circle? Sadly, this is happening in an increasing number of families today. But why?
Some Reasons for Family Tension
Have you noticed that, at times, certain members of households display personal habits that are bothersome to the rest of the family? The bad habits may involve sloppy table manners, refusal to do one’s share of work around the house, or perhaps insistence on staying up late and making noise while others are trying to sleep.
There are some who make a practice of magnifying the shortcomings of others while overlooking their own. This can create tension in a household. Persons constantly criticized often retaliate by themselves becoming critical of the faultfinder. This sets in motion a cycle of seemingly endless bickering that robs homelife of joy. Likely you know families in just such a rut.
In other homes, individuals may tend to isolate themselves by pursuing private interests to the exclusion of the rest of the household. For example, parents and children alike may become virtually oblivious to one another due to excessive television viewing, listening to music or pursuing a favorite hobby.
What effect can such self-interest isolation have on family relationships? Well, how do you feel when someone ignores you? There is danger of developing the viewpoint, ‘If he doesn’t care about me, why should I care about him?’
Many homes are afflicted with problems such as these. They can erode family relationships to the point that the house serves as little more than a ‘filling station’ for eating, and a place for sleeping.
What causes so many families to deteriorate in ways such as these? The Bible blames a dangerous mental attitude, one that is characteristic of all humans to some extent. What attitude is that?
A Dangerous Mental Attitude
The apostle Paul struck at the root of most problems with human relationships when he wrote: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.” (Rom. 12:3) The attitude that Paul desired to combat was thinking too much of oneself. This often shows up when people live closely together. Many find it easy to be courteous and humble with strangers and casual acquaintances. However, a person’s conduct at home may reveal that his “real self” manifests a haughty spirit.
An individual who has an inflated view of himself will not be inclined to adjust his personal habits and idiosyncrasies. If they annoy others, he views it as just too bad. And what of those who isolate themselves from others, preferring things such as business, reading, entertainment or some hobby in place of close personal relationships with their marriage mate and family? Here too the problem is that of viewing one’s personal interests as more important than those of others.
An Important Change of Viewpoint
Making homelife joyful calls for a basic change of attitude on the part of everyone in the family. The Bible helps people to achieve this by stating: “For there is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin.” (Eccl. 7:20) That is certainly true! So an individual aware of his inherited imperfections should not stubbornly insist on doing things his own way. Instead, there should be a desire to correct habits that are troublesome to others. And a person who acknowledges his own imperfections should not expect others to display perfection. Instead of being a chronic faultfinder, such a person should heed the admonition of Jesus:
“Stop judging that you may not be judged; . . . Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.”—Matt. 7:1-5
The apostle Paul provided a further important principle that can make life at home joyful when he wrote: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” Do “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—1 Cor. 10:24; Phil. 2:3, 4.
Do you feel that way about persons with whom you live? Indicative of your attitude is the way in which you respond when family members speak to you. An unselfish person is a good listener. Rather than ‘tuning out’ when spoken to or trying to placate the speaker with an occasional “uh-huh,” he will exercise self-discipline, to develop a genuine interest in what members of his household talk about. A person who truly ‘considers that others are superior’ will not habitually withdraw himself into television viewing, a hobby or other private interest. Instead, he will be thinking of what to say and do that can benefit those with whom he lives.
The Need to Show Honor
A related Bible principle states: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Rom. 12:10) One who wishes to heed that counsel will not be inclined to berate family members, calling them “stupid” or anything else of a derogatory nature.
When striving to show honor to one another, it is important to include children. Though youngsters can be trialsome at times, never should adults treat the little ones as “second-class” human beings. Beware of making a practice of insulting children with invectives such as: “You little imp! You’re bad, bad, BAD!” The sad consequence may be a child who becomes convinced that he can do nothing right. This can destroy the youngster’s desire even to try. A better approach to a misbehaving child could be something like this: “You’re a good boy. But you’re acting so badly today. It’s not like you to do that. And you must stop it right now!”
Persons who apply these Bible principles may find it discouraging if others in the household are slow to respond in kind. If they do not, one can have the satisfaction of knowing that he is pleasing God and trying to do what is right. The Scriptural advice is: “If someone, because of conscience toward God, bears up under grievous things and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing.”—1 Pet. 2:19.
Life at home truly can be joyful. To make it so, however, family members must develop the correct mental attitude toward themselves and others. They must be unselfish, not selfish. Why not set aside some time right now for meditating on the Scriptural principles discussed in this article. Then put them to work in your own life.